ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Gowramma’s Ghost and Bengaluru’s ‘Zero’ Out-of-school Children

The manner in which migration and education interact in often unanticipated ways in urban spaces is examined. Drawing on a fieldwork narrative from Bengaluru, questions on migrant children’s access to schooling are explored, and its interfaces with “being a migrant” in the city are located. Migrant communities’ precarious experiences of the city significantly shape the educational experiences of children. The out-of-school construct has to be understood in a nuanced and layered manner in order to envisage meaningful educational initiatives for migrant children.

On one typical fieldwork1 day in September 2017, I went to the learning centre for migrant children run by a non-governmental organissation (NGO), only to find that an entire group of children from one particular location had not turned up to school that day. The NGO centre was located inside an upper-primary government school in Sulikunte (Bengaluru South) and ran a non-residential special training (NRST) intervention2 for migrant children. Only a few weeks back, the NGO had discovered this migrant labour camp3 (which also houses a cement block factory) in Chikkabellandur, hidden away from the mainstream city. Even the cluster resource and block resource persons of the state education department were surprised to know that such a community existed for many years in that location and that there were around 80 “out-of-school” children (OOSC) in that labour camp. State and NGO officials had conversations with nearby government schools to host the NRST inside the school premises and got the space to run the centre in the government school in Sulikunte. The NGO also arranged transport for the migrant children to commute from the labour camp in Chikkabellandur to the school in Sulikunte, approximately 5 kilometres apart.

After some days of attending school, many children caught a fever. A rumour quickly spread among the children and the community that the children were falling ill because of the presence of an evil spirit in the school. An animated version of the evil-spirit story circulated among the migrant community. The protagonist of the story is a woman called “Gowramma,” and she had two children. She had been raped, murdered and buried in the school premises, and her unsettled spirit was now “haunting” the school. More than the children themselves, it was the community that believed the evil-spirit story and refused to send their children to school.

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Updated On : 9th Oct, 2019

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