Bhatta-Shalas – Schools for Children of Kiln Workers
Against the backdrop of a smoke-billowing chimney of a brick kiln and under a tin-roofed shed stuffed with rows of freshly-molded bricks, a class is in session. Nearly 50 children sit cross-legged attentively practising numerals on their slates. It is an unusual setting but nine-year-old Ashida isn’t complaining as this is the only school she knows of. In fact, this daughter of an Assamese migrant beams with pride as she displays her neatly-written Hindi alphabets which she picked up in a month. Until last year, she would have spent the first half of the year working in brickkilns and the rest assisting her family in chores back home. “I learn something new in school everyday,” she says coyly.She speaks for about five thousand students who attend 100-odd brick kiln schools across Jhajjar district, Haryana. Known as bhatta-shalas, these schools are a boon for the wards of kiln workers, who miss primary education due to their families’ constant inter-state migration.In May 2007, 70 per cent students did well in the final evaluation and received certificates allowing them admission in regular schools. An ILO-funded tracking system for the bhatta-shala project saw the enrollment of 800 students in their native districts in seven states.
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Image Source: Artiii