Monday, 8 January 2018

Finding Nemo? Or, Finding Gouri, Parshu, Raj … ? *

                                                                                                                                           - Rizwan (Community & Operations)
As part of our work, we went around Kodathi looking for children - from migrant families, who were not going to school. Since we had covered most ‘out-of-school’ children in Kodathi, where we had started our first project, and had brought them back to school; we went beyond Kodathi- to cover adjacent areas. We were quite pleased with ourselves on not to finding many children around. This meant that there were no ‘out-of-school’ children in the area.
Suddenly, one day my bubble burst! I was compelled to take my fellow Gubbis (colleagues), to a place near-by. All were shocked and asked me, “how did you find so many?” I invited the Cluster Resource Person (CRP) of the area to come, he immediately called up the Block Resource Coordinator (BRC). To our surprise, the BRC turned up the very next day. She too was shocked and asked the same question, “how did you find them?”
So here goes the story… ...
As we (our community facilitator and I) survey the area around Kodathi, we literally go into nooks and corners looking for children. One such day, as we drove through Carmelaram Railway Station Road, we met an old acquaintance. As we stood speaking to him, we saw a lady walking by with an 8 or 9 year old girl. By their looks, we guessed they were from the North Karnataka region, hence ran and stopped the lady to enquire about the girl. Our acquaintance got a little worried about what we were doing.
With our experience of the last two years, we have learnt how to start a conversation safely with a migrant family.  We confidently approached the lady, enquired about them and asked why the girl had not gone to school. We were right in guessing, as they confirmed, that they were from Raichur district and were here as construction workers in a brick factory nearby. She mentioned that the girl did not go to school, and they were going to the hospital as the girl was not keeping well.  Then, she gave us the rough location of the construction site when we asked to confirm, if there were more ‘out-of school’ children on-site.
We immediately decided to visit the site, which was difficult to find, at first, as the brick factory was inside a large compound. After driving around for a while, we spotted a big cement mixer and taking a chance, we headed towards the gate; only to be stopped by the security person. He was initially reluctant, but when we explained that we were from a school nearby and wanted the children to get education, he responded. He called his supervisor on the phone, and asked us to speak to him. On conveying our intentions, he was ordered to let us in.  
It was a huge place with a lot of commercial activity, but no visibility of a labour settlement. In front, was the huge cement concrete mixer, then the lorry garage, followed by a welding workshop, brick kiln; and then, finally, we could see the labour settlement. As we started to walk towards it we were shocked to see 30-40 children playing around…and not going to any school!
And so, from this one settlement, we found Gouri, Parshu, Raj, Vijay, … … and all the other 40+ children; and have brought them back to the school.

Footnote: As they find and discover themselves; our search for more little gubbis (sparrows) continues; and the list goes on ...
(* names changed)

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