In India, almost 100 million people are considered seasonal migrant workers. Among them, 10 to 15 million are children who find themselves in a situation of extreme vulnerability. Since 2009, Aide et Action has been actively working to take care of these children and to apply their right to education.
In India, around 100 million unorganized migrant workers move with their families from rural to urban areas, seeking employment and livelihoods. Estimates suggest that migrant children make up about 10 to 15 million of this total population. The country has a series of progressive laws to protect the rights of children; however, only 48% of Indian children benefit from the Indian Child Development Service. This government program provides food, early childhood education and primary health care to children under the age of 6 and their mothers.
Many of those excluded from these basic services are migrant children since they are mobile. Their experience of poverty and vulnerability is multidimensional and differ from those of adults. The first years are essential for the physical and cognitive development of children and yet, in India, children under six are considered to have low priority. Indeed, the State considers that it is primarily for families to promote the development of their children.
Alarming living conditions
According to a study carried out in 2013 by MiRC, the Migration thematic unit of Aide et Action, on the sites where migrants work, it was found that children often live in deplorable conditions. The figures on these sites are alarming: 90% of migrant children do not access the Indian Child Development Service, 65% suffer from various communicable diseases, 80% do not have access to education and 40% of them work.
Aide et Action has been actively working since 2009 to implement the right to education for inter-state and intra-state migrant children. Our program is primarily aimed at children of distressed migrants who work in brickyards and construction sites in the states of Bihar, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Telangana in India.
Through the establishment of centers dedicated to the care of young children, we strive to provide reception services as well as uninterrupted education. We promote cognitive learning and the physical growth of children through the development of appropriate materials and programs. Over the years, we have succeeded in ensuring that migrant children can return to school back in their native villages.
Make the plight of migrant children a priority
With the aim of making this system sustainable, we have succeeded in forging a collaboration with the authorities and communities which now allows them to establish and manage the centers directly on construction sites. Efforts have been made to reproduce the models of accommodation and childcare spaces developed by Aide et Action. Partnerships have been established with teachers, officials of the Indian Child Development Service, health officials and municipalities to connect government services and the rights of migrant families.
At the political level, we were successful in drafting and sharing recommendations with the government, decision-makers and site owners to develop a framework allowing migrant families and children to access decent living conditions, basic services and their rights in the workplace. National and sub-national consultations and workshops were organized to highlight the issue and provide solutions. We have also established networks with children’s rights groups and academic institutions to voice the concerns of young migrants and find political solutions.
Photo Courtesy: Naïade Plante