On the occasion of the 2019 World Day against Child Labour on 12 June, Education International General Secretary David Edwards has emphasised that “inclusive quality public education is the key to eradicating child labour”. Around the world, education unions play a crucial role in accomplishing that goal.
Education International (EI) is joining the celebration of the World Day against Child Labour together with its member organisations. These are education unions that actively work to end child labour “with many positive results”, Edwards said. Working closely with communities on the ground in specific areas, EI affiliates in over 10 countries and three continents act in target schools to take children out of work and back into education. Reducing absenteeism and school dropout rates is a key focus of their work. “Other affiliates have plans to start child labour and inclusive education projects soon,” said Edwards.
The unions’ hands-on programmes include professional development courses for teachers and school leaders, focusing on child-centred pedagogy and active learning techniques. Teachers gain a better understanding of what child labour is and how to identify children at risk or in situations of child labour.
“After the training, we had new tools with which to work. They are based on sound education concepts. I felt that I was more capable – our output was much better. The students’ results were much better.” Naima Dekhissi, Provincial Project Steering Committee member and Regional Coordinator of the SNE’s women’s circle, Fès, Morocco
“The problem was that the children didn’t come to school on a regular basis - maybe only three times per week. The teachers used to think that was normal. But now, following the training, teachers are more empowered and they think of the repercussions on the academic results for the children if they don’t come to school.” Bernarda Lopez, Secretary for Organisation, CGTEN-ANDEN, Nicaragua
Attracting and keeping children in schools is also important. Participation is encouraged, achievement rewarded, additional academic support provided, and the curriculum has been broadened to include practical skills, sport, and the arts.
Multi-stakeholder initiatives are also key in reducing child labour. In Mali, for example, village child labour monitoring committees include the EI affiliate, SNEC, the School Management Committee, the parent-teacher association, the Mothers’ Association, and a representative of the artisanal mining association. The committee president is the traditional village chief.
All of the education programmes focus on the girl child in order to overcome the barriers they face in staying on in school, particularly after puberty. Schools act to ensure safe journeys to school and to support girls through menstruation management. Teachers ensure positive role models for girls, and work to counter the traditions of early marriage and to overcome deeply engrained social stigma so that pregnant girls, young mothers and young widows can stay on or return to school.
“Here, Roma and Egyptian girls are married at 14 years of age in customary marriages. It is not legal but they still get married. So, the girls stop school at 13 or 14 years due to the mentality of the family. We had frequent meetings with parents ... In one case, ... the grandmother said, that because I had come so many times to ask her, she will agree to bring the child to school.” Monitoring group teacher, Naum Veqilharxi School, Korça, Albania
Working on children’s rights and the quality of education also pays dividends for the unions. They report improved relations with local and regional education authorities and increased visibility among local government. Membership numbers also rose.
“When you see members frequently in the context of the child labour project, they begin to believe in you because not all members are concerned about trade unions but they are concerned about children’s welfare and education. So this group of members began to respond and trust us”. Sifiso Ndlovu, ZIMTA Chief Executive Officer, Zimbabwe
Improved labour relations have also led to quicker resolutions of employment issues, with new opportunities for partnerships, social dialogue, and joint advocacy on issues around recruitment and infrastructure.
EI will continue to support unions’ work to promote inclusive quality education and to end child labour. It will also help to facilitate the exchange of good practice between unions and with civil society partners.