Every November, for the last three years, 12-year-old Subham Deep has cried as he hugged his parents in a routine practice of bidding them goodbye. They migrate from their village in Nuapada, Odisha in search of seasonal work, leaving behind Subham and his elder brother.
His parents will return to the village in April, before the next monsoon. Once the rains are over, they will again prepare to leave their village. It is estimated that around six million school-aged children in India participate in family-based labor migration every year. Children accompany their parents, and as a result school drop-out rates rise.
This might have been Subham’s fate too, had it not been for his enrolment in Behruamunda seasonal hostel as part of AIF’s Learning and Migration program (LAMP). The idea is simple but effective: children, who would otherwise be forced to migrate with their parents, stay in the hostel for the migration period. They are provided caretakers, meals, and basic supplies. Children in the program stay within the safety of their own village and benefit from the positive environment where they can focus on their studies.
Migrant children face a life of hardship and insecurity. LAMP addresses the vulnerabilities of such children by providing them a safety net of source-based interventions, thereby ensuring that they get a fair chance at completing their school education. Children pick up basic literacy and numeracy skills as well as life skills in Learning Resource Centres run by LAMP. As a community-based program, LAMP has now expanded its focus towards working with school management committees for effective implementation of the national Right to Education (RTE) Act, in order to im- prove the quality of education inside the government school system.
This year, an innovative life-skills initiative of cultivating kitchen gardens in more than a hundred schools has increased retention rates, as children now have nutritious meals made from chemical-free vegetables. When a bell announces break-time between classes in the morning session, Subham and his friends rush enthusiastically to the vegetable garden to select tomatoes, runner beans, and eggplants that will be used for preparing their midday meal. The hostel caretaker, Bhagta Bandhuvad, says, “The students have total ownership of the garden here and are really motivated to water the plants. They take immense pride in their kitchen garden.”
Subham doesn’t like the idea of living apart from his parents, but insists he is not interested in migrating with them. “I want to finish my studies and become a teacher,” he says wistfully, “and once I start earning, I hope my parents will not have to leave our home again.” LAMP’s interventions protect children from the greatest risks of migration to ensure that no family is forced to remove their children from school due to migratory pressures.