Child Labour

Eradication of child labour: what role for teachers?

Analysis | 18 December 2015
Faustina Van Aperen, Senior specialist in Workers'Activities
Just before Christmas, here’s a lovely story worth sharing! When teachers and teachers’ organizations are listened to, the abolition of child labour can become effective, and have a beneficial impact on the organization of decent work.

In the State of Madhya Pradesh in India, a motivational programme was launched to train teachers in a different way of teaching: “joyful learning” or the Shikshak Samakhya project. It was on Teachers’ Day, 5th October 1992, to commemorate the signing of the UNESCO-ILO Recommendation on the status of teachers, in 186 primary schools . The power of this motivational programme comes from the involvement of teachers, from the beginning, in the project’s conception and development, to the extent that “they quickly took ownership of the project”.

According to the article, this new strategic approach quickly spread to neighbouring districts. The committed support given by the first educators to their colleagues in the new areas also proved critical. The programme is now influencing the entire education system, because the planners and administrators have put their faith in teachers at the local level. The results are cheering, because this project began in Dhar, a region considered to be “backwards” because of its population: Dhar is made up of tribes, with 75% of the population regularly migrating to the city to find work. The region also had very low levels of school attendance at the beginning of the “learning with joy” or Shikshak Samakhya project.

The method, which is now being used in 10 other Indian States under the generic name of “teacher empowerment”, has restored respect for the profession. Not only do teachers value their work in the classroom, but they have managed to make their teaching activities “so appealing” that children want to go to school, says Mr Sartar Singh Rathore, Principal in Dhar. There has been a rise in school enrolment, especially of girls and children who work. Parents now consider the educational experience to be sufficiently convenient, effective and agreeable, and so consent to send their children to school and, along with the community as a whole, have decided to support the teachers and the schools. India’s investment in this “joyful learning” method has thus given teachers the means to realise their potential and make learning fun. The strategy is being developed in Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan and is supported by other United Nations agencies - UNICEF, UNPFA, UNDP – and augurs well for the future Alliance 8.7, proposed by ILO, in the framework of the promotion of the fundamental principles and rights at work that are at the heart of sustainable development goals.

Putting the efforts of teachers and teacher organizations at the heart of strategies for eradicating child labour is producing tangible results and beneficial social effects on entire communities.

As in this example by the State of Madhya Pradesh, which in heeding calls for greater respect and resources for teachers, is making progress towards the sustainable abolition of child labour, as the experience of “joyful learning” shows.

Although the role of the trade unions in this is not explicitly referred to, we must give credit where credit is due: national and international education trade unions, and the International Trade Union Confederation, as participants in the drafting of the 1966 UNESCO-ILO Recommendation, called tirelessly for better working conditions for teachers in order to the eradicate child labour.

That’s how we conclude this story, and in case anyone is still in doubt: the way to eradicate child labour and realize decent work for sustainable development is by listening to and respecting teachers and their trade unions.