migrant woes

The three children in this picture are siblings. They have just joined our crèche. They all hail from Nepal and have recently come to Delhi. When I fist saw them I asked why the elder ones had been admitted to the early education programme. They seemed far too old for it and should have been enrolled in a proper school.

The answer was simple and poignant. The children did not speak or understand Hindi. They only spoke Nepali. There was no way they could attend any school. What my staff proposed was to slowly teach them Hindi and then perhaps a year or two down the lone get them admitted to a proper school in class II. They felt that in the crèche, even though they were bigger than the rest of the kids, they would be able to slowly grasp and learn a new language. I simply agreed.

The plight of children who migrate from other parts of India or as is the case here from another country altogether, is often tragic. The parents often flee their homes for economic reasons - a flood, a dry spell, a natural disaster - and come to a strange city. The father does manage to get a job and the rest of the family has to learn to cope in new surroundings. Older children are the ones who suffer the most as they cannot integrate any school and are often left to their own devices. They are rarely accepted by other children and often become the butt of ridicule. They thus grow up lonely and rejected. No one really cares about their future.

The three kids in the picture may be able to break free and integrate a school, make new friends and build their tomorrows, but what about the thousands and more who will never get a proper chance and will have to learn to survive on their own. Some will join the ranks of child labour and be seen washing dishes at a tea shop or cleaning other people's homes. Others may fall prey to predators. Such is the plight of children who migrate with their families to big cities.