Working with migrant laborers, especially children is always a pleasant challenge. You cannot work with any agenda with them especially not with an agenda of teaching them something. They will not have the interest to learn something new, or they wont have the time or their 'owners' might not be interested in letting them learn (what if they 'get empowered' and run away!), and many other issues will thwart your attempts at every step. So at times, I even wonder if it is even a wise or realistic option to have any expectations from them.
I have been working with a boy from Bihar in Bangalore for more than a year. After a bright start to 'teaching' him English, I have slowly lost my way with him - partly because of my lethargy partly because it is so difficult for him to get time off from his work. He works 6.5 days a week and the other half day too.
Off late we haven't been able to have any teaching-learning sessions at all, so I almost gave up visiting him wondering what the point is when I am not able to teach him the English and Math and Finance basics and Hygiene basics that my friends and I had planned for him. But somewhere I realised that he was more than just a student, he has become a friend now after a year of engagement. He looks forward to meeting me, even if it is to sit in his dingy room for 10 minutes reminiscing his day or mine, his life or mine. We talk about his work, how unjust his employer is, his chances of joining a different job within Bangalore, about my work, how long the travel to my work is, how my son is and so on. Though he cranes his neck to stare beyond me to check if he is wanted back at the shop to fix another punctured tyre or grease a rusted truck, he continues to sit. At times he would call me in the evenings to find out if I am visiting him, but have nothing to say when I land up.
After hounding him for a very long time he has finally applied for his PAN card and gotten it too. His first and only government issued document. His presence in this country sanctified finally after 16 year in this land. He called me excitedly to tell me that day before yesterday. And asked me to come and see it. I'm going this weekend! :)
Next step is to get his teeth cleaned professionally and rid him of his tobacco habits. I don't have to only engage academically with him, do I? There are plenty other things that interest him and are equally relevant to him!