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Bringing Migrant Labourers Children Back to School

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Text: Namrata Kilpady-Mishra 
Pictures: Prashant Vishwanathan

Nine-year-old, Sakshi Chauthmal from Jalna district in Maharashtra never got to attend school for the first five years of her life. Her parents used to migrate with the children to sugarcane farms near the Andhra Pradesh border in search of work.

Thanks to social protection schemes that links migrant labourers to government schemes and guarantee them income security, Sakshi along with 5,000 children has returned to school. The social protection schemes ensure that families settle down in one village and their children return to school for good. 

UNICEF, through a network of local NGOs, helps vulnerable families gain vital information about relevant government schemes. It also trains gram sabhas (village assemblies) to hel
p migrant labourers with the job card application process.

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Nine-year-old, Sakshi Chauthmal lives with her parents, Dilip Chauthmal and Alka , and her younger brother, Sangharsh, in Kolegaon village in Bhokardan block of Jalna district. Sakshi never attended school for the first five years of her life as her parents used to migrate in search of work taking the children with them to sugarcane farms near the Andhra Pradesh border. 

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Dilip Chauthmal, Sakshi’s father, applied for a job card in 2010 under the Maharashtra Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MREGS) with the help of the Gram Panchayat. With this card, he and his wife were assigned 100 days of paid work from February to April each year. As a result, they no longer need to migrate for work. Sakshi has been able to attend school regularly for the past four years

Being linked to MREGS helped us earn enough to feed our children and save some money to finally build a concrete home for ourselves,’ Dilip says, gesturing to the one-room cement structure behind him. Dilip is a first-generation home owner. “More importantly, because of this job card both our children attend school without any disruption,” he adds.
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MREGS is one among many of the government social protection schemes with an aim is to address rural poverty by giving a legal guarantee to provide one hundred days of wage employment in a financial year to adult members of a rural household. 

Some of the projects for which MREGS beneficiaries work as labourers include constructing roads and percolation tanks, minor irrigation works, tree plantation and water harvesting.

Thanks to social protection schemes that link migrant labourers to government schemes and guarantee them income security, Sakshi along with 5,000 children has returned to school. The social protection schemes, ensures that families settle down in one village and their children return to school for good. 

UNICEF, through a network of local NGOs, helps vulnerable families gain vital information about relevant government schemes. It also trains gram sabhas (village assemblies) to help migrant labourers with the job card application process. UNICEF has linked 4000 families to social protection schemes.
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Linking vulnerable families to government schemes has proved to be a norm-changing exercise. Education is now being viewed as an asset with families actively demand and availing of the benefits (income security and stability) of such schemes so that their children can return to school. 
In Kolegaon 20 families of migrant labourers have been linked the MREGS. Among them is Santosh Chauthmal, who has three children, the youngest one, Anil, is 16-year-old. 

The family’s linkage to a social protection scheme had life-altering consequences for Anil. He was a class 5 dropout until his parents got the job card. Now in class 9, Anil says he is keen to complete his schooling and join the Army.

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What does this linkage mean to them? “Security and savings,” says Santosh, holding up his MREGS job card. Being constantly on the move in search of employment had caused frequent breaks in their children’s education, so when the chance to settle down once and for all in Kolegaon came in the form of the MREGS, the Chauthmals grabbed it. 

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Another MREGS beneficiary is Mangalabai Sonane in Dhakephal village in Ghansawangi block of Jalna district. “My family had been on the move for work as long as I can remember. Our eldest child, Vaishali, would attend school where ever we settled down but we would take our second daughter Gauri (7) into the field with us,” recalls Mangalabai Sonane.


9. Mangala’s oldest daughter, 11-year-old Vaishali, holds up the families’ MREGS card. In February 2013 five adult members of the Sonane family were linked to MREGS The entire family now stays and works permanently in Dhakephal. Both Vaishali and Gauri (not in picture) now attend school regularly. 

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Mangala’s oldest daughter, 11-year-old Vaishali, holds up the families’ MREGS card. In February 2013 five adult members of the Sonane family were linked to MREGS The entire family now stays and works permanently in Dhakephal. Both Vaishali and Gauri (not in picture) now attend school regularly. 

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Yadav Gadave (left) a member of a local NGO helped the Sonanes get linked to MREGS. UNICEF, through a network of local NGOs, helps vulnerable families gain vital information about relevant government schemes. It also trains gram sabhas (village assemblies) to help migrant labourers with the job card application process.

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Sakshi Chauthmal loves her school and loves hers books. “We hope she fulfills all her dreams and go on to do great things in life,” says Dilip as Sakshi makes her way to school.

 

 

 
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