1 million Indian children: out of work and into school
It’s hot in the streets of Hyderabad, India’s fourth largest city. And it’s busy: cars, rickshaws and scooters are whizzing by. The heat and the hustle and bustle don’t seem to bother the people on the streets: they get on with their lives, just like they do every day.
A Haven of Peace
In this hectic city you will find a haven of peace and tranquillity behind a blue, carefully locked gate. It has a sandy square, surrounded by green trees, a playground and classrooms. It is the bridge course camp Chandrayangutta a ‘bridge school’ for girls who have been through a lot in their young lives. The girls have one thing in common: until recently they were child labourers but they are at school now!
No time to go to school?
Shobna (11) is one of the 95 girls in the bridge course camp. She worked in a hotel on the other side of Hyderabad until last year, with her mother and sister. She used to take care of her younger brothers after work. Her days were pretty full so naturally there was no time to go to school. And does it really matter?
Everyone worked and Shobna and her parents thought it was normal. The owner of the hotel where Shobna worked did know better: child labour is illegal. But he turned a blind eye. Shobna worked hard and contributed to the family income this way.
Learning is fun!
Shobna stopped working and went to school six months ago. It’s not a regular school but a bridge school. She is learning to learn, to listen, to sit still and to pay attention. But she is also learning how to make music, to sing and dance. Shobna is really enjoying herself. She likes all her subjects. She will go to a regular school in six months’ time but she would rather not think about that just yet.
Child Labour Free Zones in India
There are many bridge schools like this in Andra Pradesh, India’s fourth largest province. Not only in the city but also in the countryside. This is thanks to efforts of MVFoundation , partner of Stop Child Labour. They have been committed to getting children out of work and into school for over 20 years now.
Thanks to MVFoundation more than 1 million children in India have now stopped working and gone to school over the last two decades. As many as 1,500 villages are child labour free and 1,000 other villages have very nearly reached this status. MVFoundation has been able to achieve this thanks to a great formula they developed: creating the so-called Child Labour Free Zones.
The key to success
The key to the success of these Child Labour Free Zones is their area-based approach against child labour in all its shapes or forms. In order to realise the rights of all children, the Foundation strives to change the attitudes of parents, employers, teachers, trade unions, the government and children themselves. In stead of thinking ‘child labour is a necessary evil’ the standard must become: ‘child labour is unacceptable in every shape or form’. No more bosses who think it’s OK to have children working for them. No more parents who think it’s OK to send their sons and daughters out to work. In the end, everyone wants all children to go to school.
It’s not a new school system that is created in Child Labour Free Zones but the entire community invests in improving the existing education. Bridge schools are created for children who have never been to school. In these bridge schools children are prepared for regular education. MVFoundation supervises the intake of new pupils and provides additional teachers. The Foundation also shows parents how to make ends meet without their children’s income. And they continue to monitor former child labourers to ensure, with the help of parents and teachers, that they finish school. The government is reminded of their duty to provide a good education to all its citizens and to check if children stay in school.
Child Labour Free Zones going global
The success of Child Labour Free Zone inspires others: not just in neighbouring villages in India but on a global scale. African countries, for example, have picked up on the success and are how preparing, extending and strengthening Child Labour Free Zones. Read more about the projects in Africa .
Child Labour Free Zones in the Netherlands and Europe are shops, companies and schools that do not accept any goods produced by children. Stop Child Labour asks consumers, governments, international organisations and companies in the Netherlands and Europe to take an active stand against child labour and to work towards a solution. Click here to find out what you can do.