Poor villagers in Odisha’s migration-prone districts, who toil at brick kilns in the southern states for the most part of the year, have found some succor in seasonal hostels that educate and nourish their children in a safe haven
A seasonal hostel in Balangir, where classrooms double up as sleeping quarters.
While his parents did the arduous work, he flipped bricks so they would dry under the sun. “I used to flip 600-700 bricks daily in the scorching heat and sleep under the sky after a day’s hard work,” Dundi told VillageSquare.in. “We hardly got a full plate of meal.” Dundi dropped out of school since his parents migrated to other states regularly. He got back to his studies when his parents learnt about seasonal hostels.
Every year nearly 300,000 people from the area migrate to neighboring states to work in brick kilns. Children who accompany their parents work same as them, and suffer verbal and physical abuse, besides suffering from health issues, say organizations working among migrant labor.
Seasonal hostels in migration prone-districts of Odisha help build the lives of migrant children like Dundi, who are otherwise completely deprived of education.
Children at work
Till a few years ago, parents took their children along, as there was no one to take care of them in the village or because of the pathuria system. Under the pathuria system, labor agents would advance money for so-called units consisting of a couple and one or two children. The children would flip semi-dried bricks or make balls of mud to be molded.
In brick kilns, as one laborer has to prepare 1,000 bricks per day, he arranges bricks in rows with very little gaps in between. Children can walk between rows easily and flip bricks. Some of the children are dropouts and some have never been to school.
Understanding the vulnerability of migrant children and to retain them in schools, the then district collector Santosh Kumar Sarangi and a few activists took the initiative to open Community Managed Residential Care Centers (CMRCC) in Balangir. The centers later turned into seasonal hostels.
The CMRCCs were opened at migration-prone villages, to prevent child migration and child labor, and to retain the children of migrant parents in the fold of education. The small experiment of civil society organizations and district administration in Balangir during 2001-02 became a successful model of retaining children from migrating, besides educating them.