If someone tells you to imagine the children of laborers then the first image that shapes up is that of children in torn clothes, half naked, sheathed with grey soot, running here and there on construction sites. During the working hours of laborers, these sites act as homes for their children. Similar scenario is visible at maximum construction sites. However, one such scenario has been changed by H.O.P.E school in Pune.
H.O.P.E school for children of laborers
H.O.P.E center (Human Organisation of Pioneering in Education), a Pune based NGO is running a day care center or school named H.O.P.E in the heart of silver sheets labor camp in Vadgaon Sheri Pune. The labor camp is attributed to BramhaCorp real estate builder. The school provides day care facility and basic schooling for children of laborers.
Advocate, Flori Menzes said, “Initially, when we saw children hovering over the construction site in Vadgaon Sheri, it felt to be risky. So we decided to do something”. Flori is the trustee of the NGO, it’s been 15 years that they are working for laborer’s children. Working for children has been the motto of hope, no matter from which sections they come from.
Further she adds, “We all did survey and at the same time we also had idea about the labor law. We approached the builder and told them what their legal duties are, even they had to accept it as they are also bound to the laws. They accepted and the agreement was made”. Here, labor law means, every construction site having more then 50 women laborers has to build crèche rooms for the children.
This is how the hope school became the brainchild of H.O.P.E center. As per the agreement the builder provided land for the day center and the NGO took responsibility of running the school.
Day care center and school
The Hope school is the day-care centre as well as school for the children of laborers. It registers children from age of 0 to 15. While going on work, mothers drop their child at the center and pick them when back. That means from 9 to 6 these children are at school with two attendants hired by the NGO. Children after the age 5 are enrolled in municipal corporation school. These children have their breakfast and evening snacks and go to the school. The NGO caters two time meals that are breakfast, lunch and evening snacks. Along with it, drinking water facility is also rendered. They also setup medical camp, awareness programs and annual cultural fest for the children and laborers in labor camp.
Glory Sable said, “Currently we have approximately 60 registrations daily and few out of them attend the government school. Children who are going to school come here for food and extracurricular activities”.
Flori adds, “We are now also getting help from well-off people and government. People who visit our school donate food, stationary items for these children. The government has started transport facility to pick and drop the children from the labor camp which is a kilometer away from school.”
Day-care center also act as safety camps for these children. Parents going to work have no option than taking children along with them. They can neither hire someone to take care of them nor keep them back at home alone.
Glory recalls an incident in which a small girl had to face sexual abuse by her own father. Glory says, “The alcoholic father harassed her own daughter. When police took hold of him, he said ‘mera ped hai mein kuch bhi karunga’ (It’s my tree I will do what I want).”
Sunaya, her eyes gleam up when she talks about her child. She says, “Jab bacha ghar pe aa ke namaste kehta hai, acha lagta hai, school ki batein bata ta hai“. (It feels good when he comes home and says namaste, talks about school activities). There are many mothers like Sunaya who feel satisfied that their children are going to day care instead of concrete playground. Sunaya also addresses what it takes to be a laborer. According to her she has to sacrifice her childcare and work for survival. Being a daily wager, a day off doesn’t work for her. If there is a job there is money for the day. But in this what is compromised is her child care. But something like H.O.P.E school brings smile to these mothers.
Contributed by: Snehal Mutha