WORLD DAY AGAINST CHILD LABOR: Salesian Missions highlights programs that eliminate child labor through education
Salesian programs ensure youth have their basic needs met and are enrolled in school.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (June 12, 2023) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and the international community in honoring World Day Against Child Labor. The day has been celebrated on June 12 since 2002, and it brings attention to the global extent of child labor and the action and efforts needed to eliminate it.
Child labor is associated with lower educational attainment and later with jobs that fail to meet basic decent work criteria. Those who leave school early are less likely to secure stable jobs and are at greater risk of chronic unemployment and poverty. Many of those who leave school early, particularly between the ages of 15-17, are engaged in work that is hazardous and classified as the worst forms of child labor.
“Children who are forced to work are deprived of the education they need to learn valuable skills that lead to stable employment later in life,” said Father Timothy Ploch, interim director of Salesian Missions. “Unfortunately, children who are forced to work miss time in school and barely have enough time to eat and enjoy their childhoods. They are exploited and in danger. Salesian programs rescue children from labor and ensure they have their basic needs met and are enrolled in school.”
In honor of World Day Against Child Labor 2023, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight Salesian programs around the globe that help to eliminate child labor through quality education.
The Salesian “Leaving Footprints” program, launched at Don Bosco City in Medellín, Colombia, has been providing education for 170 youth who once spent time in the coal mines. The program focused on the mining area of Sinifaná, where the main economic and livelihood source is coal mining, and in the cities of Amagá and Angelópolis, where mining has been a part of life for generations.
Youth often go into abandoned coal mine tunnels to extract minerals that their families can use for money and in the process are risking their health and their lives. They have become accustomed to walking through abandoned tunnels or digging new, very narrow tunnels where only they can fit. Along with facing the risk of severe health consequences and danger to their lives, half of the school-age children are no longer going to school, leaving one in five to become illiterate. Girls are the most affected.
The program provided recreational activities through interactive workshops to strengthen youth’s interpersonal and social skills. The aim was to address the risks that affect the physical, emotional, social, and psychological integrity of youth so that if they were faced with a risky situation, they would have all possible resources and skills to deal with it in the best possible way.
The program also provided parents training at meetings held every two months. Family visits have also been planned to assess each household based on behavioral, family and social patterns. To date, 41 visits have been conducted.
Orphans attending Don Bosco Shasha, located in the Mupfunya Shanga-Shasha village in the Democratic Republic of the Congo*, received support through donor funding from Salesian Missions. The funding paid teachers’ salaries and covered the cost of school fees for 55 orphans, including 23 girls, whose families could not afford schooling.
The Masisi Territory is facing armed conflicts and is one of the worst areas of violence. Conflicts have increased the number of orphans and displaced people within the territory. When conditions are too hard and incomes are low, many families remove their children from school because they do not see it as a necessary expense.
The students receiving funding through this project were selected because they have benefited from counseling and additional psychological support. Many of them have continued on with their education despite facing depression and anxiety. Salesians have paid for their schooling as well as additional social support and psychological care.
One of the students, Buuma Bihira Phélicien, is from a family of five children, of which three of them have died. The father also passed away last year leaving the family with little support. Phélicien said, “After my father passed, I was told I had to leave school but the Salesians supported me. My mother sells bananas. It’s a small business that feeds us, but she couldn’t pay for our schooling after the death of our father. Father Kizito, director of Don Bosco Shasha, helped us a lot and he told us that there are benefactors from Salesian Missions who have supported us during this year, offering us free education. I thank all the benefactors who have supported us. I hope that this will continue because if the support ends, I will be forced to abandon my studies.”
Don Bosco Boys Town (Bosco Boys) in Nairobi, Kenya, provides a home, school, playground and church for youth, primarily boys, who have been rescued from the streets. Boys who complete their primary education are then assisted with secondary education or are advised to choose technical training in sister institutions. The secondary education is most often provided at Don Bosco Technical Secondary School in the town of Embu, northeast of Nairobi.
The two-year technical training provides youth with a wide variety of skills to choose from, including tailoring, car engineering/mechanics, carpentry, electrical work, and welding, as well as secretarial skills and a full spectrum of computer-related job skills. After graduation, more than 80% of graduates are employed in their fields of study. Many students go on to attend university or establish their own businesses and become entrepreneurs in Nairobi.
The program was started in 1990, and in 2022, it rescued 145 boys. Additionally, 215 boys and girls were in the primary school and 44 boys were in the technical school and residing in the center. Salesians also provide financial support and have paid the school fees for 75 youth in secondary schools and 25 youth in university, colleges, and technical institutions. More than 5,000 children and youth have benefited from this program since it started.
Don Bosco Technical Center in Samoa has developed a successful fine arts program for its students. The program was one of three introduced in 2020. Students are developing skills in carving furniture, creating stained glass windows, designing stencils for fashion designers, carving wood and stone, producing artistic pictures, and much more.
The school provides customized furniture for customers. The fine arts program instructor joined the construction team and began working with final-year construction students, carving furniture and painting artworks.
By the end of the year, the program had broadened students’ skills and creativity, fostering positive relationships with customers. At the beginning of the 2021 academic year, the program was separated from the construction department and a new trainer was recruited to assist with the delivery of the program. It was also integrated into the first-year students’ curriculum and interested students were able to select the program as their area of specialization.
*Any goods, services, or funds provided by Salesian Missions to programs located in this country were administered in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including sanctions administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control.
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