Combating Child Labour Through Quality Education

child labour In June 2000, Ghana ratified ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour (Convention 182). Thirteen years down the path, there remains much to be done in spite of significant achievements. The last national child labour survey estimated more than one million children affected by the menace, with over two-hundred thousand engaged in the worst forms.

This is not a good picture; and we can reverse the trend. The causes of child labour are varied, including ignorance and apathy, poor enforcement of child protection laws and poverty. But one major cause is inadequate access to quality education.The National Plan of Action on the Elimination of Child Labour in Ghana targets 2015 as the time by which Worst Forms of Child Labour would have been reduced to the barest minimum. Whether this can be achieved on not very much depends on the progress made on the educational front.

Quality Education Begins at Home:
Many children in basic school have practically dropped out of school although their names are still on school enrolment lists. During school hours one encounters such children on the streets, farms, fishing sites, galamsey areas, stone quarrying premises, market places, ghettos, internet cafes and other working sites.

Some of them do not go to school because there is no responsible adult at home who sees to it that the children go to school. Many parents or guardians have lost their sense of responsibility towards their children. The Ghana Statistical Service reported that 91% of both parents of working children are alive, which indicates that neglect of parental responsibility is a major cause of child labour.

Quality education begins from the home, where the child is motivated by the home environment to take school seriously. According to the Education Act, 2008, where a child does not attend school the parent shall in the first instance appear before the Social Welfare Committee of the District Assembly for appropriate action. Is this law being enforced?

Schools should be available and accessible in hard-to-reach areas:
Child labour occurs mostly in rural areas. Many child labour endemic areas are hard-to-reach communities. In these places access to school is a huge challenge. For example, many of the island communities on the volta lake have no schools. Children in these areas have to cross the river by canoe every day to attend school in other communities. This poses a risk to their safety and there have been a number of reports on children drowning to death on their way to school. In not a few cases, children have to walk very long distances to school.

This in itself is hazardous to the child’s health. Also, having expended so much energy to walk to school, little energy remains for actual learning. In some areas, District Assemblies have provided bicycles to help children attend school regularly. In the Talensi-Nabdam district, for example, the District Assembly collaborates with a local NGO to provide bicycles to children who have been prevented or withdrawn from child labour and reintegrated in school.

Such efforts by local government authorities give meaning to the decentralized governance system. Schools must be brought closer to children. We can even explore mobile schools to meet the needs of nomadic groups.
Our children have a right to expect that each community in the country should have a basic school, at least. Is it not a national policy to have a school within every community? Policy on paper should be practiced on the ground.

Quality Education should be Affordable to children affected by child labour:
Quality education means that well-built schools have enough well-trained teachers who express right attitude towards ready-to-learn children in the context of available and adequate teaching and learning materials.

For many children and local communities this is a far-fetched dream. But this is exactly what we need to ensure that when our children step foot in the classroom, they would be enticed to come again the next day and all the time. Across the country many teachers are doing their best to stay in school and teach the children. Some have left their comfort zones in urban areas and endured the harsh life in villages and hamlets in obscure communities.

They wake up early to get water and walk long distances to schools. They command all the skills they have to transfer academic principle that explain life concepts to largely unrefined brains of bewildered children. This is not a very easy task.Ut there are some teachers also who need to do far more than they now do. Always complaining about working conditions will not help. A lazy worker always has an excuse. When children are removed from work sites and compelled to go to school only to find teachers who maltreat rather than train them, the children are disappointed and disillusioned about the worth of school.

The role of Circuit Supervisors, District Education Directorate and the District Assembly:
Ordinarily, what is to be inspected is done better than what is to be expected. Thus, while it is expected that classroom teachers do their work effectively and efficiently, more will be achieved from them if there is proper supervision.

The circuit supervisor has the mandate to check up on the regular attendance of teachers, the preparation of their lessons notes and the overall competency with which knowledge and skill is transferred to pupils. It is important for the Education authorities to ensure that adequate resources are made available for the conduct of the duties of the circuit supervisors.

Their role is very critical to the delivery of quality education. This is true for the District Education Director as well, and perhaps more so. The Education Act, 2008 (Act 778) has profuse provisions for decentralized education service.

For example, the District Education Directorate has responsibility for the efficient delivery of educational services to meet the peculiar needs of the areas within the district. This means that, in Districts, Metropolis and Municipal areas where child labour is endemic, the education directorate should be proactive and, at least, reactive to providing real solutions to communities where children are not in school because of their engagement in hazardous work. According to the Act 778, the District Assembly is responsible for the preparation, administration and control of budgetary allocations on education in the district.

This role of the Assembly is at the core of the educational challenges faced in many local communities. The common complaint about the inadequate funds available from central government is a test to local leadership.

It is incumbent on district chief executives and other leaders in the district to craft innovative ways of generating internal funds to augment what comes from central government. And local citizens should be watching out for such leadership ability as a parameter for appraisal of local government operatives.

At the end of the day, the effort we are putting into the elimination of child labour in Ghana, through the implementation of the National Plan of Action should not go down the drain. 2015 is not very far away and we must be ready to give a good account to the children of our future. –  SOMOPAC

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