Child labour

The CLEAR Cotton project offers education opportunities as an alternative to child labour in the cotton fields

The CLEAR Cotton project contributes to national efforts to eliminate child labour in the cotton, textile and garment value chain in Burkina Faso, Mali, Pakistan and Peru.

News | 21 September 2021
To achieve this, CLEAR Cotton, co-funded by the European Union and implemented in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), has implemented two school reintegration programmes: the Stratégie de Scolarisation Accélérée - Passerelle (SSA/P) (Accelerated Re-enrolment Strategy) in Mali and Burkina Faso, and a specific programme for Pakistan. In both cases, the time has come to evaluate progress.
A diligent child in one of the SSA/P centre supported by the CLEAR Cotton project, Bukina Faso, 2021 (© ILO/FDC)

School reintegration of children in or at risk of child labour: two learning systems, one outcome

In the SSA/P system, pupils are recruited from among children in or at risk of child labour, and sensitised with their families on the dangers of child labour by the project partners. The project and its partners offer them the opportunity to join one of their educational centres. These centres provide a one-year accelerated training programme that enables children to acquire the basic skills and knowledge needed to re-enter mainstream schools. After a first programme was successfully completed in 2019/2020, despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the CLEAR Cotton project continued its efforts in Burkina Faso and Mali with a second equally remarkable programme.

The assessment of the pupils of the SSA/P centres from the Boucle du Mouhoun region in Burkina Faso is now completed. Out of 588 children enrolled in the centres created by the Fondation pour le Développement Communautaire-Burkina Faso (FDC-BF), the CLEAR Cotton project partner, 561 were successfully evaluated, including 268 girls. They will all be transferred to mainstream schools for the following school year (2021-2022). Seventy-nine percent (79%) of them have reached the highest level of learning and will enter directly into the fourth grade (CE2) of primary school, representing 453 children.

In Mali, the SSA/P programme implemented by the GRAADECOM association has enabled several children to leave the cotton fields. This is the case of Aïssata Sanogo. Aged nine, this little girl, who worked with her parents in their cotton field, was withdrawn from it thanks to the CLEAR Cotton project to join the training centres. She will re-enter into the mainstream school system in her village of Solomani Bougouni, in the Sikasso region of southern Mali, at the beginning of the next school year.

Aissata is one of the 428 learners, including 233 girls, assessed during this school year. She was enrolled in one of the 17 functional SSA/P centres, out of 20 opened at the beginning of the year – three were forced to close due to security issues in their area.

With an overall success rate of 97%, 346 children will be transferred during the year 2021-2022 to the fourth year, including 186 girls, while 95 pupils, including 44 girls, will enter the third year of formal school.

Aïssata Sanogo, one of the SSA/P programme beneficiary, Mali, 2021 (© ILO)

In Pakistan, the non-formal education model implemented by the CLEAR Cotton's project partner, Bunyad Literacy Community Council (BLCC), is an abbreviated version of primary education delivered in 36 months. It enables children withdrawn from child labour in the cotton supply chains to prepare for primary level examinations.

Like the SSA/P programme, this programme implemented by BLCC aims to prepare children for mainstream public school and to demonstrate to communities that the children should be in school and not at work.

Thirty-two centres are opened in the Punjab region as part of the CLEAR Cotton project, with 1,206 children below 18 enrolled, in the hope of removing them from child labour. In the first mid-term evaluation, all the 1,142 pupils assessed were promoted to the next grade.

Results are particularly encouraging as 64 students have already re-entered mainstream schools in the region. For the BLCC, "the assessment of phase 1 reveals satisfactory performance of learning centres. Girls seems to be progressing betters in comparison with boys enrolled in these centres".

These good results have made children more interested in learning, which is the first step towards accessing decent work opportunities. They are now saying no to child labour, which is the primary goal of the CLEAR Cotton project.

Pupils enrolled in one of the school re-integration centres supported by the CLEAR Cotton project, Bahawalpur, Pakistan, 2021 (© ILO/BLCC)