DEGC project ensures schooling of migrant kids

Prajakta Joshi
Wednesday, 6 February 2019

"The project began in 2016, and in the past two years, we have created these cards for 1,000 children,” JM Paresh

PUNE: To bring migrant children into the mainstream, Tata Trusts in collaboration with the State Primary Education Department, has started the Digital Education Guarantee Card (DEGC) project.

In India’s first pilot project in the field, the organisation created a database of the children of the migrant sugarcane cutting labourers in four talukas of the State to create DEG Cards which contain standardised digital records of learning level or progress of these children. This will enable schools that admit these students after migration to have access to their past academic record. 

While Data-Driven Governance is important for government initiatives, there is a huge gap in ground-level data.

Before the surveys conducted by the Tata Trusts, there was no database available regarding the educational status of the migrant children in sugarcane labour families.

“We have carried out the project in four talukas that supply sugarcane to Someshwar Sugar Factory. We identified 25 villages in Baramati and Purandar in Pune district and Khandala and Phaltan in Satara. The project began in 2016, and in the past two years, we have created these cards for 1,000 children,” JM Paresh, Programme Manager, Data-Driven Governance at Tata Trusts, said.

The sugarcane cutting season begins in November and continues till April. The organisation surveys the migrant families and the children. After enrolling these children into the nearest Zilla Parishad (ZP) schools, Tata Trusts keeps records of their attendance and educational programme. 

“We are working with 48 ZP schools in the four talukas. While we push hard to get these children to attend school, we also give them a physical copy of their records at the time of migration. These will help the next school understand the child’s learning level and admit the child to appropriate class,” Paresh added.

“Before the implementation of Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, many NGOs ran Sakhar Shalas (sugar schools), for the children of the workers at the sugarcane fields and factories. However, these schools were shut down post-RTE Act, as the government pushed for more enrolment in the formal education system. Due to lack of proper alternative schools, most children from these families, especially above the age of 11 years, continue to be out of school,” Paresh said.

“There are two types of migrant sugarcane labourers. There are some that travel every six months, so it is easy to track them. However, there are many who shift  every 15 to 20 days,” said Paresh.

He said many families tried to utilise children above the age of 11 years for field work. So finding these children, convincing their parents to let them go to schools was another major challenge. He said Tata Trusts also conducts training and counselling for teachers and parents.

THE WAY FORWARD
- Tata Trusts is forming a close group for working on SARAL portal, to enroll the data of migrant children in the government database.
- Volunteers in the programme recently met Satara District CEO and the Education Department. The local governing bodies conducted a survey of their own and identified 4,500 children from the migrant sugarcane families. Tata Trusts is supporting the survey with app and dashboard.

THE NUMBERS
- 25 villages in 4 talukas 
- Around 1,000 children equipped with Digital Education Guarantee Card 
- Around 2,600 (60 to 65%) of surveyed children pushed to attend schools in the past 3 years 
- 48 ZP schools involved 
- 40 Tata Trusts volunteers working on field

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