Number of child workers in sugarcane areas drops

THE number of child laborers toiling in sugarcane areas in 11 provinces, including Cebu, has dropped 86 percent.

From 54,479 child laborers five years ago, the number is now down to 7,627.

This means the five-year program of US-funded nongovernment organization World Vision ABK3 Leap, or Livelihoods, Education, Advocacy and Protection, has been successful.

In Bogo City and Medellin, Cebu, Jason Befus, project operations manager of ABK3 Leap, said the number of child laborers is down to 79 from 1,535.

When asked why there are still child laborers, he said: “There is always a child in need who needs to work from time to time.”

Last June 1, ABK3 Leap held an activity where teachers, village agents, and community watch groups involved in the program shared their good practices.

Four components

Befus said ABK3 has four project components necessary to achieve its goal of reducing child labor in sugarcane areas. These are livelihood, education, advocacy and protection components.

The project introduced additional earnings, savings and livelihood grants of government agencies, including the establishment of a community-managed savings and credit association (Comsca) for sugarcane workers and their families.

It also provided access to P29 million in Department of Labor and Employment livelihood funds and micro-finance loans to members of sugarcane family clusters.

The project supported the education of 53,713 children by introducing 1,242 “little” teachers and 418 adult parateachers. (Little teachers are students who help their classmates learn, while parateachers are parents who help students catch up with their studies.)

The project also built and repaired 174 classrooms.

Child labor policies

Some 142 barangays and 37 local government units in eight provinces formulated policies and programs on child rights and child labor reduction.

Child labor policies and programs were also institutionalized in 73 sugar industry institutions.

The project also enabled 3,423 Comsca members to have access to P2.7 million in funds for emergencies like accident, hospitalization and burial.

Some 3,797 active members enrolled in micro-insurance service Tasaka (Tulong Alay sa Kapwa) that benefited 18,985 individuals.

The $16.5-million project will end in August.

ABK3 Leap is in the process of wrapping up and assessing the project.

Mohawa naman mo (You might be leaving), but your teachings remain in our heart,” said Recto Toring head teacher in Cambado Elementary School in Bogo city, who was once a child laborer in the sugarcane fields of Bogo.

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