At least 50 former child laborers in plantations and mines in Mindanao, gathered together to commemorate the World Day Against Child Labor. Most of the children were child laborers in sugar, oil palm and banana plantations and in small-scale mining. The children were beneficiaries of the project, “Bata Balik-Eskwela: Community-based Approach in Combating Child Labor in Hazardous Industries in Plantations and Mining”, which aims to reintegrate child laborers to formal school. The project is implemented by the labor NGO, Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Inc. (EILER), and supported by the European Union.
“The theme for the year of the World Day Against Child Labor, ‘No to Child Labor! Yes to Quality Education’, is apt and timely for the project since we were able to reintegrate a total of 96 child laborers to formal school this school year,” said Anna Leah Escresa-Colina, the Executive Director of EILER.
Six (6) Bata Balik-Eskwela Learning Centers were built in plantation and mining communities in Camarines Norte, Negros Occidental, Bukidnon, Davao del Norte, Agusan del Sur and Compostela Valley. The Learning Centers provided five months of catch-up lessons and review classes to child laborers in the areas to facilitate the reintegration of child laborers back to formal school.
“From toiling under the scorching heat in plantations and digging gold in the dark tunnels of the mines, it is with great joy to see these children holding books and pencils in their classrooms and actively participating in their class. The children now spend their days where they belong as students and not as workers,” added Escresa-Colina.
The Bata Balik-Eskwela Youth Camp served as a venue to celebrate the triumph of these children who suffered from back-breaking labor and long hours of work in plantations and mines, exposed daily to hazards and perils to their physical, mental and social development, and even daily threat to their lives with the hazardous conditions in their workplaces. The Youth Camp was participated by the children beneficiaries in Mindanao areas and was held in Bajada, Davao City.
“Our teachers are very proud of their students. Some of our children beneficiaries were able to pass the Alternative Learning System Accreditation and Equivalency Test in both primary and secondary levels (ALS A&E), which they took earlier. The children would still need all the support they can get to sustain and finish their education to ensure their better future,” said Escresa-Colina.
Three more batches of children beneficiaries will be enrolled in the Learning Centers before the project ends in September 2016.