Tesfalem Taye is fourteen years old and is only now enjoying the fruits of education. His father died when he was only four years old and his mother was soon after struck with a disease that left her visually impaired. Consequently, he was bussed to a relative where his life as an employee began. He herded cattle and worked as a domestic worker. It was only thanks to the intervention of the Stop Child Labour (SCL) coalition’s Ethiopia partner WCAT that Tesfalem was able to get back into the classroom. Tesfalem’s story could be replicated in many parts of Ethiopia, as well as parts of the African continent, where children are involved in full-time employment and denied the opportunity to learn.
‘Omar’s Dream’ is part of the Hivos Stop Child Labour programme that is funded by the Dutch National Postcode Lottery since May 2012 for a period of three years. SCL works to realise ‘Child Labour Free Zones’ (CLFZ) – a village, farm or plantation where no child labour exists and all children go to school – in six African countries. So far, over 12,000 children have been protected or withdrawn from child labour and returned to or retained in school as a direct effect from the project’s interventions.
“We’re not only working with the communities to end harmful traditional practices, we are also working to strengthen all educational components. We do this by working with the local government, local educational authorities and departments, teachers, parents, children, unions and employers, so that all people believe that school is the best place for children,” says Akky de Kort, SCL’s Programme Officer.
Some interventions of note that have helped with the Omar’s Dream project are social mobilisation, where activities are organised to bring targeted communities together and sensitise individuals to the programme, as well as school improvement, bridge schooling, adult literacy programmes and economic empowerment activities for parents.
An interesting aspect of the programme is the different interventions targeted countries have come up with that suit their respective environments. For example, the use of drama to sensitise communities is very important for Zimbabwe partner CACLAZ, the introduction of village savings and loan associations to strengthen parents’ economic situation works well in Uganda, and in Morocco, the involvement of the teachers’ union has a strong added value as teachers are trained and introduce extracurricular activities to make schools attractive and ensure that children are not dropping out.
According to Akky de Kort, Omar’s Dream owes its success to community involvement and ownership, improvement of school facilities and the bottom-up approach it has adopted.
For Tesfalem, the year he has been in school has enabled him to unleash his hidden potential. He takes active part in school activities and has earned himself the position of class representative.
Stop Child Labour aims to eliminate all forms of child labour and to ensure quality fulltime education for all children until the age of 15. The coalition collaborates with organisations in Asia, Africa and Latin America that work on the principle that ‘no child should work; every child must be in school’ and calls on consumers, companies, governments and international organisations to support the creation of CLFZ and/or take action for child labour free production chains.