They build our homes but they have nowhere to live...Thousands of migrant construction workers from smaller towns and villages of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Orissa and West Bengal come to NOIDA every year in search of livelihood. They build a new apartment, a new society, a new locality brick by brick and then move on to some other place...to build a new world for us. They have no permanent place to live.
The children in such families big or small move with them everytime to a new world. They grow up watching their parents working in dust day in and day out. But they follow those who come to occupy the houses they build. They do fancy the cars and fashionable clothes the occupants wear. They do hope to build their own home some day. As they grow up, most of these dreams begin to shatter one by one and they are forced to follow the footsteps of their parents and thus the cycle continues.
Successive interventions have shown that education is big game-changer for them. A skill training and bit of education can bring about a mammoth change in their lives. But then, the education cannot be imparted to them in the conventional way. It's a world where every hand, big or small is directly linked to family's economy. While parents work as labourers, children clean makeshift houses they live in, wash clothes, run kitchen and if need arises go to the site as well to help their parents carry out the tasks they are assigned. And if the parents want to earn a little extra buy seling vegetables or food items on a cart, these children have to help them. Contrary to what seems real, these children have little time for themselves. Spending five hours at school even if it is free, is a luxury.
Under The Tree is an initiative that help these children learn the basics in the most unconventional way. The learning path is designed keeping in view of individual requirement. Curriculum is flexible and tests are carried out only to keep their interest in education intact. More than anything else psychological and emotional support is required for them. The utmost important aspect in this jouney of learning is to keep alive the dreams and aspirations in the tiny eyes.
Under The Tree is an inititaive of Meetali Anup Sinha, B. Hsc. , B.Ed and Founder, MAS Foundation who has worked in the field of education since 1991. Her early career started with schools and later she became an education activist devoting her time to uplift the marginalised sections of society. For the past two years she has been working for children of migrant construction workers.
"I am a migrant myself who came to Delhi-NCR in search of a job way back in 1999. I can understand what it takes to eke out a living in NCR", says Meetali reflecting on her experiences in Delhi. "While working for children of migrant construction workers, I realised that conventional educational curriculum does not fulfill the needs of these children. So I decided to work out a curriculum that is flexible and that goes well with their work schedule. That helped me in curbing the dropout rate and number of children rose quickly", says Meetali while explaining the special needs of these children.
So far over 110 chidren have been given basic education under the project Under The Tree. "So far all educational expenses have been met through my personal fund and some help from local community. But as the number goes up, it requires a little more from all of us", observes Meetali who wants to establish three more such informal schools near construction sites in NOIDA. She has plans for establishing a mobile library for these children and a portable game kit as well.