Five Ways Education Can Help Tackle Child Labor in Cocoa-Growing Communities

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Author Nick Weatherill

Executive Director
International Cocoa Initiative
Child labor has fallen by about 50 percent in company-supported programs

Education is central to tackling child labor. Over the years the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) has supported thousands of children in cocoa-growing communities to access quality education. As research has shown, child labor rates are lower in communities with better access to quality education.

ICI is highlighting five ways that education can make an impact when working to ensure that children have a future that’s free of hazardous labor.

Access is important, but so is quality

Improving access to education is key, but so is providing quality education. To improve access, we’ve brought schools closer to home; helped children get birth certificates – which are needed to take primary school exams – and provided children with essentials for study, such as text books, pens, uniforms and shoes.

To improve quality, we’ve supported school canteens and school feeding programs. A nutritious meal not only enables children to stay in school throughout the day, but helps them concentrate on their lessons. We’re also working with teachers to promote a safe and inclusive environment in the classroom, as well as training them on innovative teaching methods that have been proven to improve learning.

Check out the infographic below for more or read ICI’s study ‘Education Quality and Child Labour: A review of evidence from cocoa-growing communities in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.’ The research found that child labour is significantly lower in communities with a primary school, but even more so when other services are also present. These findings are informing our work with our partners, helping to improving learning environments.

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Infographic by ICI

Bridging the gap

In many cocoa-growing communities, children may not have the opportunity to go to school. The absence of educational services in local communities, long distances to schools, or working on the family farm can all play a role. Bridging classes are designed to support children who have fallen behind reintegrate into the school system, and stay away from a potentially hazardous environment on the farm. These classes can open the door to further education of all kinds, including apprenticeship programs.

Take the examples of Emma, Guillaume and Jean-Marc, three children from the Zatta community in Côte d’Ivoire. For various reasons, they were all unable to attend school regularly. But, after enrolling in bridging classes they caught up with their peers. Today, they are looking forward to continuing their studies after rejoining the school system.

Offering alternatives

Older children and teens are more at risk of becoming engaged in child labour and being exposed to hazardous work. This is what happened to Bernice, a young Ghanaian girl. After finishing Junior High School, her parents were unable to pay for her education. But with the support of her local Community Child Protection Committee, Bernice was able to enroll in an apprenticeship program. Now, by learning her new trade under a master tailor, Bernice has the opportunity to put hazardous child labour behind her, and forge her own future.

Education that goes beyond children

In households where adults are literate and educated, child labour rates are lower and their children are more likely to attend school. That’s why educating adults and parents is so important. Providing literacy and numeracy classes to adults, in particular women, can go a long way to creating conditions for children to be better protected, both now and for generations to come.

Introducing alternative means of income, supporting the set up of small businesses (such as soap-making or selling dried fish), and offering training on new skills can generate valuable extra earnings, which often go directly to women. These positive effects can mean more disposable income to further a child’s education. With ICI’s support, a women’s group in the community of Yawboadi, Ghana, learned best practices in rice cultivation. Hawa Yakuba, one of the women, explained how prior to the intervention she only managed to grow around one bag of rice. “For the first time, I harvested six bags of rice,” she said later. “The money I made from the sale of the harvest was invested into my children’s education and a portion re-invested into the farm.”

Awareness: A first step to a solution

Education can also take place at the community level. Here, community facilitators like Joseph Mensah are vital. Joseph works as part of Tony Chocolonely’s Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation System (CLMRS). Facilitators like Joseph work with cocoa communities, promote the benefits of education to children and adults alike, and do vital work explaining the difference between permissible light work, which can teach children valuable skills, and hazardous work, which can harm their development. In 2018, ICI’s community facilitators reached over 674,000 community members through awareness sessions. Learn more about the CLMRS here.

This blog was originally published by the International Cocoa Initiative.