Setting programme objectives
• ISSUE: Total or partial withdrawal of children from work
One of the main issues when starting a direct action programme is related to the partial or total withdrawal of children from work. But national goals must be defined in a clear, achievable and time-bound manner.
If either the partial or the total withdrawal from work is denied as an objective and made a precondition for the children's participation, the programme design and content must reflect this. For example, in programmes where children are totally withdrawn from their work in the commercial sex trade, there is a need to provide a complete residential facility for their rehabilitation. In other cases, stipends are provided for the children to participate and withdraw from work. For programmes which opt for partial withdrawal, the design either provides for a schedule which allows children to study and work part time or, alternatively, less hazardous income-generating opportunities are made available.
The ground rules are as follows:
In general, parents react positively to programmes where children work part time in light work and are involved in non-formal education. Even if this means a decrease in their income, it is more viable because of the continuing income. The parents also feel that the children are getting an education and learning practical skills which improve their employment opportunities for the future.
Another approach that can be seen as a step towards the ultimate goal of children's withdrawal from hazardous working conditions involves campaigns for making the workplace safer. Adult workers as well as owners of workplaces can be recruited as volunteers to participate in training workshops so that they can monitor safety.
• ISSUE: Nutrition, health and other incentives
In many instances, improvements in education are not sufficient to attract and keep children from very poor families at school. Many families of child labourers live on the brink of survival and many millions of children in the world do not go to school because they are malnourished or frequently ill. Many more go to school hungry and are unable to pay attention, concentrate and learn. Numerous studies have shown a close link between school attendance, health and nutrition. A nutritious meal makes a tremendous difference to a child's health and ability to learn. The school is also an important entry point for providing essential health services such as immunization, detection of disabilities and childhood illnesses. Many organizations provide nutrition and health care to children through the education system and these have proved to be powerful incentives for parents to send their children to school.
Besides school-based food and health programmes, organizations have experimented with providing other economic incentives, such as school uniforms, books or transport. Cash payments, such as regular stipends or scholarships, have also been provided. Schiefelbein2 has reviewed examples of such incentives in Latin American countries. These include cash payments for students, provision of school materials, and allocating additional funds to schools or municipalities which provide services for child labourers or children considered at risk of child labour to enable them to provide more responsive and flexible programmes. The various income-replacement strategies that have been tried in Latin America offer interesting examples of how effectively to provide for the needs of child labourers. Most require a combination of responsive local schools, and the political will of national and/or local governments, which provide the necessary policy support and resources to implement income-replacement measures.
An ILO survey3 on economic incentives for children and families to eliminate or reduce child labour also aimed to identify whether income replacement and substitution activities offered viable options in the battle against child labour. Many of the incentives used by the NGOs which participated in the survey were directly related to schooling. Payments in kind were the most common form of benefits extended to children or their families. These included provisions for school uniforms or clothing, books, school bags and materials, school lunches or other food items, transport, or payment of school fees. Evidently, organizations which provide income-replacement services for child labourers, or for children who are at high risk of child labour, do so because the cost of schooling or the forgone income deters children from entering education. But Anker and Melkas also point out that there are many other factors that discourage children from attending school, and these are more directly related to the shortcomings of educational systems. Thus, they raise the question of whether replacing the lost income of children who attend school full time would in fact be adequate to keep them in school. Another important finding was that the provision of cash incentives could lead to abuse, and therefore many NGOs preferred to provide in-kind incentives rather than cash payments.
• ISSUE: Incentives: How much is too much?
Support services are sometimes provided as incentives to attract parents and children to participate in action programmes. But it has been observed that some programmes offer too many incentives which make them more like welfare programmes. Among the disadvantages are: (i) high programme costs; (ii) the programme is not sustainable in the long term; (iii) child workers are perceived as privileged, because non-working while equally poor and disadvantaged children do not receive such benefits elsewhere; (iv) the practice may encourage more parents to remove children from school and send them to work in the hope of becoming eligible for similar benefits; and (v) parents of children who may not be part of the target group will insist on their children's participation, thus creating confusion and divisiveness in the community if they react negatively when their children are not admitted. The major disadvantage is the difficulty of sustaining and replicating the programme since the participation of parents and children will be heavily reliant on the availability of incentives; thus the motivation for participation is mainly external.
A careful balance must therefore be struck. One option is to encourage children's participation in running the programme. They can help prepare learning materials and contribute to cleaning and maintaining the centre and its equipment, repairing furniture and materials. They can also work with younger children as peer teachers and participate in home visits, especially to other children who have been absent for a while. After they complete their courses of study, they can also be asked to help with the programme activities and work as resource persons or volunteers with the other children. In this way they can serve as positive role models and share their own experiences.
Parents can be asked to work as volunteers for the programme, and the activities can depend upon their individual talents and skills. Whatever time and energy they can contribute should be discussed with them from the outset and also clarified so that they will not view incentives as a hand-out but feel that they have something meaningful to contribute. Parents who actively participate in the action programmes are also more likely to better appreciate the impact or the benefits of these programmes for their children, and ultimately their families.
It is important to assess whether direct action programmes should focus only on the objective of generating income for the children and their families, or should also serve as income-saving or expense-reduction measures for the family. If the children can use what they make, or if the family can eat what is produced through the programme, there may also be value added to encouraging such cost-saving measures towards self-reliance. The approach of helping children and their families opt for participation in courses that also involve the production of goods that meet the basic day-to-day needs of the children, and helping them to manage existing resources, may ultimately be more beneficial for the children. This approach will help them practice problem-solving and planning for very practical life needs, and at the same time help them achieve a sense of fulfilment in being able to meet their immediate requirements.
One of the more frequent reasons children drop out of programmes for their education and protection is the difficulty they have in delaying the gratification of their needs. Survival is a most compelling reason to work. Thus, the pressure of earning money or of securing the resources needed by the family can be overwhelming enough to forgo the opportunities of skills training and basic education.
Another important issue in setting expense-reduction measures alongside income-generation or replacement is the possibility that children and their parents can be helped to learn to be more realistic about earning possibilities and about basic needs versus additional or emerging needs. In the case of children who have been involved in commercial sexual exploitation, the great difference between income through participation in an action programme and their previous earnings will be discouraging at the beginning. It is necessary to work closely with them and their parents, and clarify objectives with them at every step of the way.
• ISSUE: Mainstreaming children into formal schools
It is important to determine whether the schools where the children are expected to enrol are actually receptive to the re-entry or the integration of working children. If they consider it as an imposition or a burden rather than as a responsibility, their attitude towards the children will be passive at best and negative at worst.
In relation to the mainstreaming of children into formal schools, some specific issues need to be considered:
In addition, there are some questions to consider in connection with the issue of mainstreaming working children into regular schools.
In developing countries where job opportunities are still limited and where a large number of youths with college or university degrees are unemployed, it is not surprising that many disadvantaged parents doubt whether their children can compete in the job market with a primary or secondary education certificate. Few parents expect their children to be able to proceed to tertiary levels of education. That is why they may appreciate vocational training because they consider it more realistic for work opportunities.
The experiences in education and child labour, and the strategy for maximizing education in the fight against child labour, clearly identify the expansion of early childhood development programmes as critical to meeting the needs of working children or those at high risk of recruitment in the near future. Research and case studies also show that disadvantaged children, who did not receive adequate health, nutrition and psychosocial cognitive and language stimulation in the early years of childhood, are highly likely to experience developmental and learning problems and will have difficulty catching up. A number of mainstreamed children have to drop out because they cannot compete with other, often younger, peers, and do not enjoy doing so. Thus, if the children concerned did not have the opportunity for such a foundation for school learning, it is necessary to provide them with additional support services. If there are younger siblings in the families of working children, they should be supported by facilitating their access to community-based early childhood development programmes and convincing parents that this is an important step to take for their children.
Tutorial sessions, materials and book-lending schemes, counselling and peer support through complementary non-formal education programmes will help children cope with life in the formal schools. They should be helped to work out the feelings that arise out of the difficulties encountered in the formal schools. Mainstreaming of former working children or children who continue to work part time is only viable if there are support services for them. Parents need support and information so that they will be able to support their children. Teachers need help to understand the perspective of former working children and the pressures of adjusting to formal schools. If these support services are not made available, re-entry into the formal schools may be a traumatic experience to be added to the already traumatic experiences of these children in the workplace. It is critical that, if a country programme chooses to adopt this as the primary approach to the education and social protection of working children, no omissions in support services will result because the impact on the children can be very negative.
• ISSUE: Awareness-raising
Most action programmes include various forms of awareness-raising activities directed at parents, community members, local school authorities, the business sector, and policy-makers (see also Chapter 8). These have been included based on the realization that the understanding by these groups of child labour issues will be their basis for supporting the programme's objectives and activities. Ultimately, the programmes will also be the basis of their continued participation in concerted actions to prevent child labour, protect working children through community action, engage in needed policy reform and support effective law enforcement.
When awareness-raising efforts are not considered investments of the programme, there can be problems. For example, teachers in formal schools may not develop a positive attitude towards non-formal education programmes provided by these action programmes if they are not informed in any way, especially in the planning processes. They may refuse children entry into the formal schools. Apprenticeship programmes are unlikely to succeed without close coordination with the business sector. Individuals who own private businesses or their consumers may have certain attitudes towards working children and may not be open to working with them.
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