Eradicating child labour and improving the quality of education are inextricably linked. That’s according to Marième Sakho Dansokho, EI Executive Board member and General Secretary of SYPROS. She was speaking at EI’s “Omar's Dream” workshops on 3-4 June in Dakar, Senegal. The workshops explored the contribution teaching unions can make to establishing child labour free zones in five countries: Ghana, Mali, Morocco, Senegal and Uganda. The project to achieve this will run for 16 months from March 2013 to June 2014.
You cannot separate quality education from equal access to education for all
”Both primary and secondary teachers and their trade unions have a vital and specific part to play in stamping out child labour, along with politicians, government leaders, employers and international financial institutions,” said Sakho Dansokho.
She added that EI and its affiliates were also poised to celebrate the World Day against Child Labour on 12 June worldwide.
Project to create child labour free zones
The project’s key aims are:
• To enable teaching unions in the five countries to join the existing "Omar’s Dream" coalition to create child labour free zones
• To build the capacity of teaching unions to help drive progress towards eliminating child labour through support activities and exchanges
• To raise awareness of child labour and the importance of education at local, regional, national and international levels
The project sets out to deliver these aims in four ways:
1. National workshopsto enable teaching unions that join existing alliances to get to know the "Omar’s Dream" project; discuss and commit to the project guidelines, agreed measures and communication, and the expected outcomes.
2. A sub-regional workshopto enable the five target countries’ national coordinators to share their experiences. The sub-regional workshop will be held after all the national assessment workshops have been held.
3. Participation in conferences and exchange programmesto support and share best practices. Attendance at the international Conference,"Out of Work, Into School - Working towards Child Labour Free Zones” (Uganda, 18-19 April 2013).
The workshop attendees re-emphasised that education and child labour are inextricably linked. Preventing and eliminating child labour and improving the availability and quality of education are key factors in developing child labour free zones - areas where every child goes to school and no longer has to work.
Broadly speaking, child labour rises when spending on education declines and policies to promote inclusion for those excluded from the education system are lacking.
Teachers are key actors in the fight against child labour
Teachers in Ghana, Mali, Morocco, Senegal and Uganda are well-placed through their unions to act against child labour. Teachers are in daily contact with children (child labourers, former child labourers and children at risk) so they can easily keep an eye on them. They can talk to these children to explain the importance of attending school and finishing their education, and the danger that child labour represents for them and their future. Cutting school dropout rates will also help to significantly reduce the incidence of child labour in a particular community.
Also, as trade unionists, teachers can have a decisive input into the framing of national education policies. As social partners, teaching unions must be consulted on education policymaking. This puts teachers among the foremost advocates for better laws and policies in education systems, including beefing up national policies on child labour through the promotion of compulsory education, universal access, free quality education for all, or defending support programmes.
You can read the EI Resolution on child labour adopted at the 6th World Congress in 2011 here.