India: National Consultation on Child labour, education for all and poverty alleviation
17th January 2007: Global March Against Child Labour completed its 9th Anniversary on 17 January with the National Consultation on inter-linkages of child labour, education for all and poverty alleviation. This unique consultation saw the participation off over 300 stakeholders including Ministry of Labour, Government of India, former child labourers, representatives from UN agencies, Teachers associations, Trade unions, International NGOs, and partner of Global March and the Bachpan Bachao Andolan in India.
The event was inaugurated by Om Prakash, a former child labourer and winner of the International Children’s Peace Prize. Mr. Kailash Satyarthi, introduced the specifics of the Global task Force on child labour and education. He stressed the need for understanding the cross cutting relationship between child labour, education and poverty and asked for coherence in national efforts at the policy and practice so that the various efforts on child labour, education and poverty alleviation are able to compliment each other and ensure that the poorest families can send their children to full time school and are not forced to send the children to work.
Lakshmidhar Mishra, Special Rapporteur, National Human Rights Commission of the Government of India emphasized that the Indian Constitution provides for the fundamental rights in Articles 24, 38, 39, 45. These along with Article 21 (for protection of life and personal liberty), are all contravened when children are forced to work. Article 21 has inherent to it the right to land, water, health and there exists a link between these rights and child labour elimination, education and poverty alleviation. Universal access, universal retention and participation are the most important steps to ensure good quality education for the children.
Harjot Kaur, Director, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India elaborated the various efforts of the government towards child labour elimination and the coordination efforts between the various departments. She discussed the future plans of Labour Ministry as in April 2007, the NCLP would be extended to all the districts in the country. She said “Child labour and Education for all is one of the major goals of the Labour Ministry and hence this decision.” She further justified – “Keeping in view the economic condition of the people, Government has consciously adopted the distinction. But the complete elimination of child labour is a goal before us.” She said that a holistic solution to child labour encompassing poverty and illiteracy issues was essential and urged the civil society organisation to take initiative to end child labour.
Rei Vejs Kjeldgaard, Deputy Director, ILO-Sub Regional Office mentioned that “Interpreting the several legs of the Triangular Paradigm, our slogan and effort should be that ‘Parents at work, children to school’.” She explained the responsibility of ILO in hosting the Secretariat of the GTF and explained that how UN agencies have come together on recognizing child labour as an obstacle to EFA. GTF is the commitment by the international community to end child labour and ensure EFA. UN has decided to strengthen work with India on child labour elimination and education for all. The UN’s commitment to the Traingular paradigm is as strong as ever. On behalf of the UN she thanked the consultation and said that the UN and ILO are happy to be a part of it. She said that advocacy and policy are the key elements, which would determine the speed towards achieving elimination of child labour and Education for All.
Maxine Olson, UN Resident Coordinator, India summed up the session by putting forward the challenges that exist in Triangular Paradigm that is the relationship between the three legs, it is essential to prioritise the relations and formulate an action plan. “Child labour is wrong. Child labour is illegal. It cannot continue and reiterated that it is our responsibility to ensure that child labour does not continue, that children are out of work and into schools.”
Heather Rogers, Political and Labour Section US Embassy, India discussed the future plans of US embassy with Indian Government and ILO for eradication of child labour. She said that the US Government will support the NCLP Programme in addressing new challenges in implementing the 11th plan strategy and provide lessons and good practices for the mid course correction in NCLP implementation. She further suggested that it is very important to provide scope for innovation and experimentation to tackle new challenges as child labour is a complex socio economic problem requiring flexible and new responses from time to time.
Samphe Lhalungpa, Education Specialist from UNICEF said that it is necessary to bring a social consensus to end child labour. This should be brought out at the state, district and block levels too”. Stating that education is the tool to end child labour, he said that National Coalition for anti child labour should also be national coalition to ensure quality education.
Amit Mitra, Social Scientist and Journalist strongly supported the “Triangular Paradigm” and said that the implication of the policies on the basis of coherence between Child labour, Education and poverty at the grass root level not only would help in eradication of Child labour but also help in overcoming. He said that “decent education is the call of the day” because the reason for children dropping from school is that they are not getting decent education like Tamil Nadu has reported several drop outs due to the physical abuse of the children in the school same was the case in Bangladesh where 20% drop outs have been reported.
Minar Pimple, UNDP – he said that Child labour issue, education and poverty can’t be seen separately He praised the links of BBA with the MDG campaign in India and emphasizing the clear advocacy challenges that are faced in the realization of MDG’s. He said that MDG without ensuring safe childhood for children will remain unrealized.
Swami Agnivesh, noted religio-human rights defender and Ramesh Gupta, Chair Delhi Bar Association closed the session with a vote of thanks and expressed the hope that this consultations will enable make mid course corrections in addressing the core issue of child labour that in the ongoing efforts on poverty alleviation, education for all and make MDG’s realization possible.
Some of the key points that emerged from the consultation are:
- There was an expressed concern on different kinds of education that is being offered to different segments of population- Non-formal education, formal education, good quality for some not for all. This was leading to inequities and social exclusion for the poor from good quality full time meaningful education.
- Right to life with dignity is the most fundamental human right, especially in the context of child labourers who have been rescued/ withdrawn from work and are now enrolled in mainstream education. It is important to recognise this right of the child and put special emphasis on this.
- It was considered important to help government with implementation of the 11th ten year plan and focus special attention on the issues and concerns of child labour in Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan (Government of India’s flagship Education for All programme), Poverty Alleviation Schemes, especially National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Mid Day meal, etc. It was felt that child labourers and families of child labourers should factor prominently in all government education and poverty alleviation schemes. .
- It was agreed by all the participants and the speakers that the education bill should be passed by the central government (and not by the state governments as is the present state) as soon as possible so that provision of free and good quality of education could be attained.
- The budget allocation for education and child welfare should be increased. The promised 9% GDP should be given.
- Social mobilization and awareness among the communities at the grassroots level were considered to be the effective tool to stop child labour and establish meaningful outreach to address the hardest to reach children.
- Emphasis was on common education systems with the public/private schools taking responsibility to educate unprivileged and hardest to reach children .
- All agreed that children should given opportunity to speak as they are so clear about child labour elimination, poverty alleviation interlinkages. The intervention strategy of Bal Mitra Gram (Child friendly villages) and Bal Panchayat (Children’s Assembly) initiated by Bachpan Bachao Andolan was also appreciated as a tool to achieve child labour elimination through education for all, provide avenues for children to develop their leadership quality. It was also felt that this was the most effective strategy in helping monitor the implication of laws at the grassroots level.
- Ministry of Labor, Government of India
- ILO – South Asia Regional Office
- National Human Right Commission (NHRC)
- US Embassy
- Winrock International
- National Coalition for Education
- All India Primary Teachers Federation
- Bachpan Bachao Andolan
- Shakti Vahini
- Wada Na Todo Abhiyan (G-CAP branch in India),
- Campaign Against Child Labour
- Campaign for Common School System
- Jawahar Lal Nehru University
- VV Giri National Labour Institute