Child labour fight gets $32.9M boost
Over 760 children to benefit
Stabroek News
January 26, 2007

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Some of the representatives of organisations that received funding from EDUCARE to assist children who may become involved with child labour or are school dropouts. Also in photograph are Minister of Education, Shaik Baksh (second from left in front row),

Over 760 children will benefit from a $32.9 million grant, which is aimed at assisting children who fall victim to child labour and ensuring that they receive a sound education.

The money was distributed yesterday to eight institutions, which are working along with the Partners of the Americas Guyana Programme as part of the organisation's child labour eradication effort. More than three-quarters of the money, $22.8 million, is being provided by the United States Department of Labour's International Child Labour Program.

Director of EDUCARE Guyana Inc, the local chapter of the programme, Ed Denham said it will target children who are involved in some of the worst forms of labour. According to the organisation, some of the worst forms of child labour found in Guyana are trafficking, prostitution, vending, begging, logging, mining, sawmilling, portering, fishing and conducting minibuses.

According to Denham, EDUCARE is not saying that children should not work but it must be within defined parameters and it must be monitored. He said it is known that children help out at home but this work should never reach the stage where it interferes with their play time, their homework or makes them tired the next day.

This first phase will target 620 primary school-aged children, and 146 secondary school-aged children.

Minister of Education Shaik Baksh, painting a picture of the seriousness of the school dropout issue, said that of the 73% of Guyanese students enrolling in secondary schools, only 48% actually complete the five years. The minister pointed out that one of the major contributors to this is child labour. He said that for this to be adequately dealt with the government needs parents and communities to come on board. At the ministry's end, more school welfare officers will be trained, 20 of whom would be going out to different regions shortly to deal with truancy and absenteeism. He said also that a literacy programme which was launched in two regions will soon be introduced in the other regions. Baksh also pointed to the need for a remedial educational centre for students who are not up to standard with their studies. He said, ideally, studies should be conducted at the centre during the summer and on Saturdays during the school term for some time so as to reduce the level of school dropouts.

And the minister yesterday acknowledged that there needs to be more collaboration between his ministry and the Ministry of Labour as there is a gap. He pledged that he would take the first step towards closing the gap.

Those who received assistance yesterday were: Denise Catering Institute in Region Ten; the Adult Education Association in Berbice; Sunshine Women & Youth, Region Three, which received two sets of donations as they are involved in both phases of the programme; the Adult Education Association in Bartica; Zeelugt Primary School; St Anthony's Primary School; Fort Ordinance Primary; and the Vreed-en-Hoop Seventh Day Adventist Church. The three schools also received computers to assist the children in information technology studies and also to help track students who are not regularly at school.

EDUCARE is a programme funded by the United States Department of Labour and managed by Partners of the Americas and is charged with combating child labour though education. It is concentrating its resources on issues of child labour that come under the International Labour Organisation's Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour. The organisation said many of the children it works with tend to fall into category 'D' - children who have dropped out of school for a variety of reasons. It provides assistance to two different sets of children the first being primary-aged children who are at risk of entering into child labour and with their partners in the communities the organisation provides uniforms, a daily hot meal and remedial after-school education programmes.

The programmes are referred to as School Attendance Programmes (SAP). The second set of children comprises those who have already dropped out of secondary school and are working in the worst forms of child labour. (Oluatoyin Alleyne)