The migrants who come to work in Mewat’s brick kilns typically represent the most marginalized peoples in India: they are poor, landless, illiterate and often members of scheduled castes and tribes. India has long been dedicated to narrowing the socio-economic gap between castes, and its constitution even explicitly lays out a plan to safeguard and promote the interests of scheduled castes and tribes.As with many progressive policies in India, however, they are often much better on paper than in practice due to rampant corruption and crippling bureaucracy. Our Lotus Education as a Right Network (LEARN) project has been working to bring the promises of India’s constitution to life by serving as a local education watchdog and advocate for poor and marginalized children. LEARN not only works to enhance education quality and infrastructure at a high level through formal complaints and public interest litigation, we also work to teach communities about their rights and entitlements as Indian citizens, and our team members serve as advocates on their behalf.Recently, the LEARN team worked to ensure that several migrant families from West Bengal could acquire the necessary school transfer certificates to ensure their children could continue in school when they returned home during the monsoon season, when the brick kilns stop operating. Rafikul has two sons studying in grade four and five in Mewat that have been benefiting from the child laborer scholarship initiative. Rafikul’s eldest son Rabiul hoped to return to West Bengal to live with his grandparents and attend school there, but the family was at a loss as to how to acquire the necessarily paperwork: Raibul had been denied admission to grade 6 in West Bengal because he didn’t have a transfer certificate. With the assistance of LEARN staff, however, Rafikul was able to identify and appeal to the appropriate officials and received the transfer certificate from Raibu’s school in Mewat the very next day.Meera, on the other hand, decided to stay in Mewat during the monsoon season so her children would not have to risk interrupting their studies. Due to a lack of transfer certificates, Meera’s three children were denied enrollment in school when they returned to West Bengal last year. And though LEARN can help her acquire the necessary certificates, the family has decided it is better to just keep the children in school in Mewat where they receive support and transportation as a part of the child laborer scholarship program.As members of a scheduled caste, Meera’s children are also eligible to participate in a government incentive scheme designed to offset the opportunity cost of sending "untouchable" children to school. Despite the family’s legal rights, Meera was initially refused participation in this scheme because she was told her voter card did not qualify as appropriate proof of caste. “When I met the officer of LEARN today, he informed that the voter ID is a more authentic proof of caste and should be accepted by the school,” shares Meera. “He instructed his assistant (block coordinator) to talk to the school head next day and asked him to start the process of opening bank account of the children so that they could be given cash incentives. The LEARN official also asked me to tell the school head so that she will make a formal complaint to India’s National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in case the account is not opened soon.”“I am very happy that LEARN is not only making it a reality that the children of poor migrants could avoid child labor, get education in schools but also ensuring that they get free books, uniform and cash incentives. I am quite hopeful that my children will not have to run away from their native places in search of work when they get educated and grow up,” says Meera.With your generous donation, we can continue to ensure hundreds of children of migrant families in Mewat stay in school, thereby breaking the cycle of oppression and poverty. To learn more about Lotus Outreach, LEARN and the Child Laborer Scholarships project, please visit us at www.lotusoutreach.org. We also encourage you to subscribe to our monthly newsletter https://www.z2systems.com/np/clients/lotusoutreach/survey.jsp?surveyId=6.
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