A student at Wonder Foundation's partner school, Junkabal, in Guatemala City.
Today, on World Day Against Child Labour, 168 million children around the world are thought to be working, when they should be in school. Despite recent decreases in the number of children working, the challenge of how to do better remains.
Alongside severe deprivation following conflict or disasters, the biggest cause of child labour is chronic poverty. In short, when parents’ work or circumstances is insufficient to support the whole family, children may be called on to work too.
One of the root causes of child labour can therefore be linked to poor quality, insecure adult work, which recent discussions around “decent” or “good” work have sought to address.
Good work can be defined as “fair and decent with a scope for fulfilment and development” What could making these principles into reality mean for children currently working in child labour? What does good work mean for keeping them in school? And how can we best support those striving to improve access to quality education, keep children in school, and eliminate child labour?
At a basic level, decent work for adults, with decent pay, reasonable conditions and workable social benefits can help to create the stability needed for families to allow their children to go to school, and even afford to pay school fees if needed.
In the long term though, access to quality education is a critical step in preventing future generations of child labour. Policies that ensure free, compulsory and quality education for all children, and investment in the teaching profession are vital to diminishing the number of children forced into child labour across the world.
By having access to decent education until at least the minimum age, children are given the opportunity to develop the skills and training necessary to enter the workplace at a later age, find secure and professional employment, and avoid child labour and hazardous work that can go with it. Their own families and children will also reap the benefits. For many of the Wonder Foundation’s partners, this is a crucial part of their mission.
Sorawell Professional Training College in Yaounde, Cameroon’s capital city, provides education to girls from disadvantaged backgrounds that leads to meaningful opportunities. This helps them avoid the pitfalls of the pronounced gender literacy gap and high levels of child labour in Cameroon. In Guatemala, Wonder Foundation’s partner, the Junkabal Foundation, offers pre-school, primary and secondary education to around 450 children from vulnerable families living around the 40-acre rubbish dump of Guatemala City. Junkabal offers quality education that would otherwise be unavailable to these children, in an effort to ensure that every child has the opportunity to learn and be safe from child labour and exploitation.
Figure 2. A Junkabal student shares a hug with her mother.
Many of Wonder Foundation’s other partners provide education and vocational training to young women, who may not have had many educational opportunities in their childhood, in an effort to empower them to find decent work themselves, and improve both their own lives and the lives of their families. For the families of these women, this can mean all the difference to the next generation, and the ability of the younger family members to access education and avoid child labour.