WORLD DAY AGAINST CHILD LABOR: Salesian programs combat child labor
Salesian Missions highlights educational and social programs that combat child labor.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (June 12, 2021) 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. Every year since 2002, the day is celebrated on June 12 and brings attention to the global extent of child labor and the action and efforts needed to eliminate it.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) sets a theme for World Day Against Child Labor corresponding to a current or future challenge. This year’s theme is “Act now: end child labor!” and focuses on action taken for the 2021 International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour. It is also the first World Day Against Child Labor since the universal ratification of the ILO’s Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor.
The organization noted that the COVID-19 crisis is pushing millions of vulnerable children into child labor, increasing beyond the 152 million children already used in the workforce, 72 million of which are in hazardous work.
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 compelled to work, even for a fraction of the day, are deprived of the education they need to learn valuable skills that lead to stable employment later in life,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Unfortunately, in many situations, children are being forced to work around the clock with barely enough time to eat, let alone study, and their prospects in life are diminished.”
In honor of World Day Against Child Labor 2021, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight Salesian programs around the globe that help to eliminate child labor through quality education.
Don Bosco City, located in Medellín, Colombia, has been working with youth for 54 years and has saved more than 1,300 child soldiers from a life of violence. The long rehabilitation process at Don Bosco City focuses on three things youth need to learn—how to trust, to have hope for the future and to build relationships with others. Psychologists and teachers work together with youth, giving them the tools for a better future including basic education and more advanced skills training that will lead to stable employment.
Juan David recounts that at the age of 6 he collected garbage to support his two younger siblings in Medellín. Today, he is a student at the Latin American Autonomous University where he is enrolled in law courses. He credits Don Bosco City for the transformation in his life—from being forced into early child labor to being able to access an education.
Don Bosco City is one of the oldest and largest programs for street children in Latin America. Since its start in 1965, the program has rescued more than 83,000 boys and girls. Through the program, Salesian missionaries offer a multi-pronged approach designed to address the broad social issues that contribute to the poverty and exploitation these youth face while training them in the skills necessary to break the cycle of violence and poverty. Currently, there are 900 youth between the ages of 8-12 living and receiving education at the program.
Salesian volunteers with Holy Child Auxilium School, operated by Salesian Sisters in New Delhi, India, organized a program in Jhajjar, just outside of New Delhi, for children who work in brick kilns. Coordinated by Victor Nazareth and led by Sister Maria Pettayil, funds were raised to buy food for more than 200 children. The Salesian community in Jhajjar provides education and help to children working in the kilns and children of furnace workers.
Salesian programs across India are primarily focused on education. Salesian primary and secondary education helps youth prepare for later technical, vocational or university study. Other programs help to support poor youth and their families by meeting the basic needs of shelter, proper nutrition and medical care.
Salesian programs in Rwanda are working to help at-risk youth who are often living on the streets. UNICEF estimates that there are about 7,000 street children in the country while close to 300,000 live in families where a minor is the head of the household. The economic challenges brought about by the pandemic have exacerbated many of these issues.
Street children face a life that is marked by uncertainty and a lack of education, food, protection and health care access. These children have no understanding of their rights and often fall prey to those who wish to do them harm. Street children have few prospects in life because they are not in school gaining an education and are on the streets begging or taking odd jobs to have enough food to eat. Most suffer from malnutrition and other diseases such as dysentery, malaria and scabies.
Salesian Brother Hubert Twagirayezu, explained, “In 2016, a project was launched for street children at the St. John Bosco Parish in Rango. Our goal is to impact different aspects of the person, including taking better care of themselves and encouraging the suspension of drug use. Children are treated, they learn hygiene again and they play sports.”
Father Joseph Nguyen Tuan Anh is one of 120 Vietnamese Salesian missionaries living in the Zambia–Malawi-Zimbabwe-Namibia (ZMB) Salesian Province. There he assists 90 boys who live at the Don Bosco Children Home. He is also in charge of the oratory.
The Don Bosco Children Home transforms the lives of street children by providing shelter, education and agricultural training to help break the cycle of poverty and provide opportunities for financial independence. The home provides a nursery school that prepares young children for primary school, a youth center that accommodates up to 60 youth and agriculture training so youth can earn a living.
In Makululu, more than 40 percent of children between the ages of 7-14 do not attend school. The area once had no formal education. Many of the local families rely on basic trades to earn a meager living and feed their families. They set up stalls with vegetables, fish, fruit, stone slabs, furniture and products from China. There is great poverty in the community with many residents living without electricity, enough food or enough money to buy clothing.
In 2019, Salesian missionaries working in the Makululu settlement were able to purchase close to 25 acres of land and develop a farm thanks to donor funding. Missionaries have developed the farm near the Don Bosco Children Home so it will be a source of food for the children and the local community. The farm is also utilized as an agricultural training center.
Contact: [email protected]