Migration Narratives: The SHRAM Blog

Ray of Hope

I have recently joined the Agrasar team. To directly orient myself to the various initiatives driven by Agrasar, I decided to interact with a few students to understand about the education program, ‘Agrasar Bachpan’. While interacting, it was my conversation with Pooja that helped me get better insight into the inspiration behind Agrasar Bachpan.

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14 year old Pooja is the eldest child among four. She comes from a village near Chattarpur where she used to live with her maternal grandparents who used to take care of her and brothers. Around three-four months back, her father, who is a construction labourer and mother, who is a maid in one of the growing localities of Gurgaon decided to bring them to Gurgaon. This decision uprooted her from family and friends she grew up with and most importantly from the formal schooling that she used to receive and love. While her parents enrolled the two younger brothers into government school, her name was not registered.  When asked “Pooja, why did that happen?” She remains blank. It is not that the child does not know or understand but it is most likely something that she has come to accept. The reasons for this can be many and mostly rooted in the socio-economic limitations of the family. Even at the tender age of 14, Pooja has to manage the household and her younger brothers in absence of her parents.

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This is the reality that many children of migrant families face today. Whether it is due to lack of societal support, lack of proper documentation, family duties or economic barriers, children like Pooja are forced to move out of their formal schooling and lose out on getting educated and a chance at social and economic empowerment.

But her story does not end here. She made sure that it did not. One day she followed other children to the gates of the building where the Agrasar Bachpan centre is located and got herself enrolled. It may not be the same as attending her last school, she pointed out. She is yet to make friends and open up to her fellow classmates. But she attends class everyday without fail and works on her assignments diligently.

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I met her in a mixed classroom of about 25 children, all of whom were busy working on a worksheet of Hindi. This was the Group C classroom, part of the four learning levels of Agrasar Bachpan. This level is for children who have moved up from Class 1 level and shall reach Class 2 level by end of the program year. What caught my attention was that while it was a hindi worksheet, she wrote her name in English. When I asked her to do so in Hindi, she simply said, she had forgotten how to do so. On showing her, how it is written, she was able to identify with the letters and copy the same easily.

That is when I realized the role that initiatives like Agrasar Bachpan have in the lives of these young children. It provides them with a chance and an opportunity to continue one’s education and to become independent and confident individuals in the future. It reduces the chances of young children losing out on primary education by forgetting what they have learnt. The program also helps them in assimilation to a new place, context and hopefully back into the formal learning structure.

On February 13, 2016, Agrasar Bachpan Team celebrated their first birthday. I was keen to know more about the journey and interviewed our CEO and curator of Agrasar Bachpan. He summed it up in a single paragraph – “We met a few children not going to school discussed a little and found out that admitting them straight into formal schools may not be a feasible idea. Their immediate need is to develop psycho-socially and also learn the fundamentals of various subjects. Therefore, we started two learning centres this year, wherein we are teaching around 180 children. Our biggest learning is that we can not have a batch wise approach in an education program. Each child has her own interests, pace of growth and set of challenges. We need to understand every child individually.” On being asked about the future plan of Agrasar Bachpan, Prerit has been audacious enough to share – “50,000 children in Gurgaon do not have access to structured learning. Agrasar Bachpan shall facilitate this fundamental right for all of them.” He and the team have accepted this huge challenge with all humility, which gets reflected when he says – “We can not do it alone. We must have to collaborate with other learning centres, government and individuals, to see this dream turn into reality.”


Manager- Research & Documentation at Agrasar

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