A group of children are practicing their A,B,Cs in a corner, others are pouring over mathematics exercises, while another group is beaming as they hold up the drawings they have just made.
Although this may sound like what is commonly seen at all schools in the city, what makes it different is that it is a makeshift learning centre at a construction site in the plush Lokhandwala Township in Kandivli.
At this centre, children of migrant labourers are given free education by Mumbai Mobile Crèches (MMC), a non-government organisation that has been working with thousands of children at building construction sites for the past four decades nearly.
From toddlers to 14-year-olds, children of labourers attend classes here while their parents are at work.
“We have 30 such centres in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai. We reach out to more than 4,700 children every year,” said Vrushali Naik, programme co-ordinator at MMC.
With crèches present at very few construction sites, these centres act as pre-schools or balwadis for these children. While, children between 0 to 3 years are looked after by caretakers, older ones between 3 and 6 years go to a preschool and those between 6 and 14 attend bridge courses that the NGO offers. For those who have managed to enroll themselves at civic schools, volunteers assist them with homework and studies.
“We try and convince their families that they should not leave children to fend for themselves at the site as it is dangerous,” said Neeta Raut, who has been teaching these children for the last 21 years.
Not only does the organisation educate these children, but also provides them with food. “We give them milk and eggs,” said Suvarna Shinde, who has been teaching at the Kandivli centre for the last six months. Their health is also monitored by a doctor during weekly check-ups, she added.