Americans often don’t have to worry about limited access to education. Every child, from age six to age sixteen, is required to spend eight hours learning subjects from basic math and reading to world history and computer science. While India has instituted a similar mandatory schooling law, the Right to Education Act, its protections do not extend to those who need it the most: India’s migrant children.
Migrant children are the least protected students in India. Their parents are often construction workers or agricultural laborers, jobs requiring long tedious work hours. Parents are unable to come home throughout the day and return at night too tired to manage a household. These responsibilities often fall to the older children who have to cook, shelter, and look after each other. Younger children are taken to the job sites forced to grow up in unsafe environments surrounded by half-built buildings or toxic fertilizer sprays. Migrant positions are also not lucrative careers; if parents cannot make enough money to support their family, children often work tedious menial jobs for little pay in order to continue to put food on the table.
These prior responsibilities enforce a self-perpetuating cycle. The migrant children cannot go to school as they have to help support their parents and their lack of education prevents them from achieving a good lifestyle and better careers; which later leads to their children facing the same obstacles that plague their childhood and this vicious cycle goes on and on. Those who want to go to school and make a definitive choice to attend also face roadblocks. Children attending schools struggle with language barriers, erratic commute schedules, and the stigma school administrations possess.
Door Step Schools (DSS), a Vibha-sponsored charity, recognizes the concrete problems that these children face and is working to combat their longstanding suffering. Their strategy is to target the parents and educate them providing a strong foundation to support a child’s education. Often, migrant workers do not go through any formal education and they, that’s why, don’t see the value of their children attaining a formal education as well.
Door Step School employees in the Baner-Balewadi area went from house to house, door to door, and succeeded in convincing these parents that the trouble of getting their children into schools was worth it. Through their determination and persistence, Door Step School transformed these children’s lives by helping them get the sort of education they deserve.
The success among the small group of migrant families spurred Door Step School volunteers to expand their program and bringing the opportunity for schooling to more of the migrant youth. On January 15th, they held a fair with fun activities for children as well as informational skits for the adults. They even put on a skit discussing the value of basic sanitation principles in improving community health. This fair attracted more than eighty parents and more than twice as many children, and the volunteers succeeded in enrolling most of the attendees in local government schools and retaining them for the past year or until their family moved to another location.
The Door Step School volunteers help these children from migrant families to rise above their current living conditions and help them secure a safer, more fulfilling life. We don’t often think about all of the things we learn at school. I never once sat down and thanked anyone for teaching me about the health benefits of little things like washing my hands every now and then. These children are deprived of even the basest education hindering them in pursuing a better future. The efforts Door Step Schools have been putting, for more than a decade, in educating and empowering the forgotten children of India’s next generation, is truly very important and praiseworthy.