Education International
Education International

Colombia: Show of strength to eradicate child labour

published 25 May 2012 updated 29 May 2012

Common strategies to influence public policy to eradicate child labour must be articulated by education unions. This is essential for the promotion and defence of education as a fundamental right.

This was just one commitment by grassroots organisations in Colombia together with EI’s affiliate, Federación Colombiana de Educadores (FECODE). They attended a seminar on union strategies for defending children’s rights to quality public education -guaranteed and funded by the State- in Bogota, Colombia, on 16-18 May.

The seminar was organised by EI as part of a global campaign for the eradication of child labour.

Integrate the issue within the classroom

The International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour of the International Labour Organization (ILO - IPEC) was a key player and the meeting´s sponsor. Its representative in Colombia, Liliana Obregon, presented the Aula Viva (Live Classroom) program to the participants. This programme provides methodologies that combine education and personal development whilst integrating the child labour issue into classroom discussions.

Local and global strategies

One way forward in the eradication of child labour is that individual states ensure investment in access and retention policies in public schools.

Rocio Mojica, from the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), said it was necessary to strengthen institutional coordination between the Ministry of Education and other ministries, as well as international organisations such as UNICEF.

Elsa Castañeda, the external advisor to the Ministry of Culture in Colombia, believes that, in recent decades, "the exploitation of children has intensified, education has been taken out of schools and business quality ratings have been imposed on us. As we lose genuine teaching, we also lose students."

Research shows that when children are excluded from school, it is very difficult for them to return. "Not even the subsidy schemes have worked," she said.

According to Gabriela Bonilla, EI regional coordinator in Latin America: "There are 200 million children in the world excluded from primary school education, which must be reverted in order to protect the right to free, quality public education for everyone.

"It is therefore increasingly urgent to ensure that we invest at least one per cent of GDP in primary education," she added.

Child labour in Colombia

In an open discussion among participants, the question of whether the "pedagogy of love" was enough to eradicate child labour arose, given that poverty is a key factor in the issue.

In Colombia, one concern regarding child labour is the exploitation of children in drug trafficking. This so-called 'micro-trafficking' is a common phenomenon in schools in disadvantaged areas.

In recent years, with the opening and expansion of the internal drug market in Colombia, new public spaces for the drug market are being sought out. One of these spaces is schools. The unions claim that there is no clear public policy to combat this and other phenomena, making them invisible.

Participants therefore agreed to articulate common strategies to influence public policy around the eradication of child labour, as this is essential for the promotion and defense of education as a fundamental right.

Take action against child labour

June 12 marks World Day Against Child Labour, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year.

Education unions have been pioneers in the movement to prevent and eradicate child labour. This year, EI has developed the campaign: "One hour against child labour".

This campaign includes interactive training materials to be used worldwide by unions, teachers and students to perform activities on child labour.

To access the materials for this campaign please make click here.