The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the poor the most, amongst them the migrant workers.
As per government of India, more than 60 million people migrated back to their villages due to the lockdown.
Migrant workers for years have been living an invisible life and lacking decent working and living conditions.
The migrant workers who moved with their family members were more vulnerable to the hardship of moving back to their villages.
During the lockdown, many infants and children reportedly died while trekking barefoot to their villages and those fortunate ones who managed to reach their homes have encountered hunger and health issues, says Umi Deniel of Aide et Action Bhubaneswar.
During the pandemic, Aide et Action has provided assistance to 0.24 million migrant families and children both at destination, transit and those who were staying in quarantine centres with food, transport, medicine and counseling.
Majority of the migrant workers in western Odisha practice seasonal migration and move with their families to the brick kilns located mostly in the southern India.
In Nabarangpur district, 40 migrant returnee children are being taught in the school building, in Bolangir 22 children are being taught under the Banyan tree in Khaprakhol Block, in Bhalukan village they are studying in the village mandap, totaling 293 children.
Reach out of remedial classes for returnee migrant children:
Children of all ages who move with their parents spend their precious childhoods at the work site, in an inhospitable condition and many are forced to join the workforce as child labour, says Umi Daniel further.
Migrant children regularly encounter obstacles in accessing education and other basic services especially at the work sites and Aide et Action has been working with children of seasonal migrant communities living in brick kilns and building construction sites in five states of India including Bihar, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Telangana.
Besides providing early childcare and education, they have ensured continued learning for older children through enrolment in the nearest government schools where volunteers are engaged to teach the children in their mother-tongue, points out Daniel further.
Due to the advocacy efforts with the government, children have been receiving mid-day meals, uniforms, textbook and other educational facilities on par with the local children in various destination states.
Once the migration period ended, these children are assessed and based on their academic scores, transfer certificates are issued which ensures the migrant children to re-enroll in the schools in their native villages.
This process continued until the unintended consequences of COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of schools at the destination for which the migrant children have lost their learning.
Sudden closure of schools left them in lurch
The sudden closure of schools left the children in a lurch. The children were forced to leave their destinations along with their families due to widespread fear of pandemic. Once back home, their future became uncertain.
The extended lockdown deprived them of education and other basic supports like mid-day meal and classroom education.
Many of the seasonal migrant children who left their homes are yet to go back to school for more than 1 year, points out an civil society activist.