On November 5th 2009 Afke de Groot attended the Expert-meeting on Child Labour and Education organised by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Afke de Groot shared her views based on recent IREWOC studies. The seminar consisted of contributions of representatives of the Dutch government, the European Commission, national and international NGOs, labour unions, academia, the private sector, and international organizations such as ILO/IPEC, UCW, and UNICEF. In her contribution, Afke De Groot, highlighted three aspects:
(1) Poverty remains an important factor for children being out of school and children working. Even though many poor households do indeed send their children to school, these deprived households are extremely vulnerable for sudden crises, such as a death or illness, and their children are most likely to drop out of school and turn to labour. These circumstances of poverty cannot be changed by educational policies or poverty-sensitive programmes alone. What is needed is a multi-sector approach. A social security system should be part of education planning, and implementations of such measures should go hand in hand with monitoring. The variables to take into account are not poverty and gender, but the specific conditions of gender and poverty which lead to a higher degree of vulnerability.
(2) Quality and accessibility of the education system itself. Parents - given their severely limited resources - consider schooling as an investment rather than a basic right or need. Therefore, the perceived benefits of schooling need to weigh up against the opportunity costs. Policy should also include creating income-opportunities and forms of education that are linked to skill enabling capacities.
(3) The importance of ECCD (Early childhood care for development) in keeping children away from an environment of work. From an early age children are brought up in an environment/culture of work. When children are very small they already join the parents to the work premises. Consequently, once they have reached the age of 9 or 10, and when there is no immediate or smooth transition to further education, it is not a big step for the child to leave school and enter the workforce, as they are already accustomed to this environment. Hence, expanding ECCD-facilities provides opportunities for keeping children from work at a later age.
Participants formulated recommendations, of which the most important was to strengthen the lobby for the mainstreaming of hard-to-reach children and child labour issues in national education plans of education partner countries, by for example:
(1) Improvement of quality and relevance of education and (vocational) training
(2) Support for flexible formal school systems and programmes for transitional second chance education, which promote the inclusion of all children
(3) Support for early childhood development initiatives
(4) Developing closer working relationships between partners in the area of child labour, education and related areas
The recommendations were presented to the Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation Mr. Bert Koenders.