Durban, May 17 (IPS) – “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to eliminate child labour.” So said Dennis Sinyolo, Director of Education International’s Africa Regional Office in Accra, Ghana, adapting the liberation icon and famous quote from late South African President Nelson Mandela. on how education can change the world.
Sinyolo was participating in a thematic discussion on education at the 5th World Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour.
Panelists agreed that investing in teachers was also crucial to ending child labour.
Sinyolo noted that teachers are the ones who identify those who are out of school, raise awareness about schooling and mobilize to get them into school.
Cornelius Williams, director of child protection for UNICEF, noted that a worrying trend of increasing child labor has developed in the two years since the start of the COVID pandemic. -19. More than 1.5 million learners have been affected by school closures.
“It’s been a huge setback for education and also a huge setback for child labor,” Williams said.
He said 16.8 million more children in the 5-11 age group were working, which is expected to increase. A third of them were out of school, and for every child out of school, another balances work and school.
The role of teachers was also highlighted by Malawi’s Minister of Education, Agnes NyaLonje.
In his country, two million children were in child labour.
She called on the “global education community to mobilize serious resources” as developing countries, with large populations of school children, struggle to afford infrastructure and provide free quality education for at least under 12 years old.
“Funding is insufficient,” NyaLonje said. “The situation in Malawi I think is an example, the population is growing at 3% per year and the majority of the young population, which is over three quarters of the population, in the country is (aged) zero at 15, what are the customers of education.
She said that for developing countries like Malawi, there was never enough money to adequately fund both infrastructure and education.
“No matter how hard we try to set aside some of the budgets, it’s never enough.”
NyaLonje said teachers need support. She told a story about the saddest thing she experienced after the country was devastated by Cyclone Ana. She had told the teachers that they had to return to work a few days after the cyclone, despite the impact on infrastructure.
However, the impact of his teaching was brought home by the plight of a disabled teacher, who was saved during the cyclone by being carried out of the house by his daughters. Now homeless and disabled, he had to prepare to resume teaching.
The impact of natural disasters has also been felt in Durban, where the conference is taking place. Besides already lagging behind in school and infrastructure development due to a lack of historical development due to apartheid, Kwazi Mshengu MEC Education, Kwa-Zulu Natal, told the conference that the recent floods , where around 500 people lost their lives, also destroyed schooling. Infrastructure.
Mshengu said that because of historical injustices, the disadvantaged have settled wherever they can find land close to economic opportunity. The floods affected 630 schools, including 101 schools that were completely inaccessible.
“We are also sitting with learners without families or homes and housed in community halls… their parents have been swept away by the floods. We need to join hands to make sure they don’t have to turn to work forced for food,” Mshengu said.
All delegates had strong words to add to the Durban Call to Action, which will be released on Friday at the close of the conference.
Dawit David Moges Alemu, from the Ethiopian Federation of Employers, said it was important for leaders to stick to their commitments.
Sinyolo said it was crucial to bridge the gap between policy and practice.
“Education should be free and truly free,” he said at least for the first 12 years. He called for support and investment in teachers and ensured their pay was fair.
Mshengu called for a system that engenders a value system that “loves their children” and puts children at the center of the system.
Nguyen Thi Ha, Vice Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs of Viet Nam called for better quality vocational training.
NyaLonje reiterated her call for serious resources to be found for education, but also crucially called for investment in teachers, because sustainable development starts with education.
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