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Benin: spotlight on child labour and child trafficking

A commitment to track down the sources and causes of child trafficking and child labour in Benin emerged from a teacher trade unionists seminar in Cotonou, Benin, from 9-11 May. EI organised the national trade union training and awareness-raising workshop under the theme, “The impact of quality public education for all in the fight against child trafficking and child labour in Benin”.

Some 30 participants representing seven trade unions took part in this event which explored the true state of child trafficking and child labour in Benin.

For a new collective attitude towards child labour

Exchanges among participants and presentations led to a better knowledge of the national legal provisions and sub-regional, regional and international instruments adopted by Benin on the subject. They also led to greater awareness among teacher unions regarding the link between the persistence of child trafficking and child labour on the one hand, and the possibilities of achieving the goals for early childhood education and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), particularly those associated with quality public education for all, on the other hand.

The driving role of teacher unions

One of the workshop’s main goals was to obtain a firm commitment from EI members to quickly undertake awareness and information campaigns. These would inform Benin of the existing link between the eradication of child trafficking and child labour, achieving the goals of Education for All (EFA) and the MDG, and the fight against poverty.

At the same time, it was important to develop a strategy to encourage or reinforce cooperation between the teacher unions, the governmental authorities, United Nations agencies (ILO, UNESCO, UNICEF, United Nations Population Fund, United Nations Development Programme, etc.) and the other players in national civil society, in order to carry out actions and activities to fight against child labour.

Intelligence is wealth

In an interview for Benin's daily newspaper, Le Gongonneur, to coincide with this meeting, , Samuel Ngoua Ngou, EI's regional coordinator in charge of the organisation of this workshop, said that EI’s position regarding institutions in Benin is the same towards all governments whether they’re from the West or the South. “We believe that education is a right, a fundamental right; we believe that all children must be given quality education,” he said. “For us, education is the only key to the development of children and communities. A nation’s main wealth isn’t oil, the sea, wood or cotton; it is first and foremost the intelligence of its citizens.

 “We are convinced that education is also a response to the crises that are shaking our countries and we absolutely support all the demands of the teacher unions in Benin. We mustn’t content ourselves with an education where children simply go to school and see teachers, but where they don't receive quality education. It’s not only the fault of the teachers; it’s essentially because school, as an institution, doesn't offer teachers all they need to offer children quality education.”

He also suggested that the fundamental problem of African countries is, above all, political will:

“We believe that the state has the most important role and our countries must show that they mean it. As long as this isn’t the case, you can be sure that Education International will always support the teacher unions, and be ready to help them, including raising awareness among the international community so that measures that might lead to retaliation may be taken against these countries.”

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