‘End Child Labour In Supply Chains It’s Everyone’s Business’

The following is the opening and keynote address by the Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts Mahendra Reddy, on Student Leadership Seminar, at Kshatriya Hall, Labasa yesterday.   Good morning,
15 Jun 2016 10:47
‘End Child Labour In Supply Chains It’s Everyone’s Business’
Minister for Education, Mahendra Reddy.

The following is the opening and keynote address by the Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts Mahendra Reddy, on Student Leadership Seminar, at Kshatriya Hall, Labasa yesterday.


Good morning, Ni sa bula vinaá! Namaste and warm greetings to one and all. Ladies and Gentlemen and our loving children; it gives me profound pleasure to be here with you and become part of a very important event.

The World Day Against Child Labour [WDACL] is observed on the 12th of June every year. It is a day for everyone to collectively raise their voices and speak out against child labour or exploitation of our innocent children.


Children: They should be educated

Ladies and gentlemen, Child labour is an escalating problem which all societies across the world encounter. The misuse, exploitation and forced labour of children endanger their health, wellbeing, safety and innocence. Child labour denotes the fact that children who must be rightfully in school or engaged in play are removed from there and made to do work under subjugated environment.

Many children are subjected worse, as apart from the work they do, they are also oppressed, ill-treated and punished during the work.

The innocent children are broken time and again in their spirits and self-respect which haunts them for the rest of their lives.

A child is a precious gift for all parents and it is really heartbreaking to know that there are many children who are not given that privilege and treatment that they rightfully deserve.


Child labour and intergenerational poverty

Ladies and gentlemen, child labour is a contributing factor to a low waged household. A low waged household will disincentivise and reduce esteem for anyone in the household to up skill and seek high education, thus contribute more low waged households from these child labourers as they establish their families. Ladies and gentlemen, this cycle will continue and thus, poverty is intergenerational. We need to break this cycle…we collectively.


Child labour and gender violence and oppression

Ladies and gentlemen, a major liberating factor of females from violence and oppression is up skilling and educating them. Unskilled and low paid workers, on equal footing with the male counterparts tend to be bullied not only at work place, but also at their homes, amongst their extended family members as well as their community groups. We need to up skill them and raise their earnings potential. This is a sustainable solution to giving them dignity, better opportunities and improved living standards. It is also, a more effective way of improving the living standards for their entire household and as anecdotal research has shown that the impact of increase of female heads’ income on the entire family is much higher than the impact of an income increase of the male head on the household.


Child      labour,   unskilled   workers   and   Government intervention

Ladies and gentlemen, when we have a large number of students dropping out, unskilled without any formal qualification, they also contribute to an imperfect labour market where these workers do not have a bargaining power on wages and terms of conditions of work. They are then offered minimal by monopoly or oligopoly employers. They have no choice but to accept it. They do not have any bargaining power. This then places pressure on state to intervene in the labour market, a solution not desirable, but essential for protection of human rights.


Ending child labour:

On this note, it is heartening to note that individuals, groups, organisations and governments, together with the International Labour Organisation’s Tackling Child Labour through Education project, are leading the charge to eradicate this inhumane activity. The theme for this year’s World Day Against Child Labour which is: “End Child Labour in Supply Chains – It’s everyone’s business!” is also appropriate, given that the extent and scope of child labour with time has become more complex and multifaceted.


Educational opportunities:

Ladies and gentlemen, the magnitude of oppression and exploitation that our children face has become more intensive and has grossly spread out in all sectors of the economy.

Therefore, it becomes our shared responsibility to establish a drive to save our children from the clutches of those who feed on their innocence.

A combined effort from all stakeholders will inject that much needed enforcement and pro-action that is needed to eliminate the misuse of a child’s purity.

The Bainimarama Government has time and again announced that the greatest investment of the government is towards education.

The Government of the day intends to ensure that all Fijians are given equal opportunities and accessibility to get themselves educated.

A lot of emphasis is placed on an educated society which will in future inject that much needed empowerment, skills and knowledge in all Fijians to progress productively. This education will then assist all to make rational decisions and do what is best for the children.

The Government of the day has devised policies and avenues such as, free education, transport assistance, Weet-bix and milk, TELS scheme, free text books, revised curriculum, competent teachers, upgraded infrastructure and continued initiatives and reforms to attract children to school.

Ladies and gentlemen, the children belong to the school and that is where they must be. That is precisely why we have made it compulsory that all children must be supported to gain education till Year 12.

No child should be forced to stay at home for whatever reason it may be, as it is unlawful and against the constitution of this country.

Added to this, we have set up other avenues for our children such as, the Technical College campuses.

The Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts evaluated that there was an urgent need to step in and recover the situation where students were blindly pushed into academic streams when realistically they either could not cope with the demands or didn’t have interest in that subject area. There was no avenue to understand and appreciate the interests of these students and which led to them dropping out of school and falling prey to people who gave them work under exploitative conditions.

The children had no choice as other situational factors such as poverty, peer pressure and other social issues compounded to force them to work, even though their physical self and emotional ability could not cope with such demands.

Ladies and gentlemen, we intend to fight child labour with education, that is, on one hand, getting all children in educational institutions and on the other educating the public and community at large on safety, care and up keeping of children’s rights.

The Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts has implemented, reviewed and re-implemented a Child Protection Policy in the Education system. This has been made keeping in mind the welfare and wellbeing of the child. In the school environment, we intend to give the child that freedom and right to exercise their rights so that they become well-informed citizens of our beloved nation. This initiative combined with values and virtues education forms the basis to prepare our children holistically.

In schools, we have introduced structured programmes and activities that assist our children to learn about issues affecting them and how they can counter these concerns. Programmes such as Scouts, celebration of cultural activities in schools, oratory contests, debates, essay competition and other activities are organised to enlighten our children on key issues and one of which is child labour.

This year all schools across Fiji have again been asked to observe this important day and organise school based activities to disseminate important information to the children on Child Labour. We have advised all schools to emphasize on children’s rights, key issues affecting the present day children and how education can assist them to fight off these challenges. Schools can join the campaign through organising awareness activities on the issue of child labour and the negative impacts on the development of children. Activities can range from having special notice boards, oratory contests, chief guest invited for assemblies, quizzes, skits, debates, research activities art and drawing competition. We are also asking all stakeholders to empower our children to speak out against any social injustice or ill-treatment not only for themselves but for others also.


Taking control of external shocks

Ladies and gentlemen, external shocks can contribute to children’s drop out and exacerbation of child labour. Shocks such as, disease outbreak, cyclones, droughts and other natural disasters.

We need to be ready and immediately take control of the situation to ensure that our children are protected. Some measures may require support to the household as well so that there is no household based factors contributing to dropouts and child labour. A good example is the recent cyclone that we experienced. We lost no time to get our children back to school. We engineered all resources to get our children back to schools, away from the trauma and any form of exploitation that they could be subjected to. We remained steadfast that children were the most vulnerable group in situations such as this and therefore, they should be salvaged.


Parental Engagement

Apart from this, we have now intensified on the notion that parents as one of the key stakeholders must now become more involved in their children’s education. This will motivate the child to work hard in school and make well thought out choices for future, thus minimising the issue of school drop outs.


Seminar Today

Ladies and gentlemen, the objective of the seminar that is organised today and which is funded by the European Union dwells on two key areas which are:

  • To understand child labour concepts, laws, policies and leading actions to eliminate child labour and;
  • To evaluate knowledge on child labour and advocate for positive change

I understand that the presentations during this Seminar will focus on areas such as: Ending child labour in supply chains, Overview of relevant national laws, Understanding child labour, its consequences and actions to eliminate child labour and leading actions to end child labour.

These topics will undoubtedly enrich and enlighten all those who are taking part and set a perfect scenario of information sharing and learning. For the students who are part of this Seminar, you must understand that your action is not only limited to your understanding and comprehension of the information, but more so it challenges you to teach your colleagues, family members and the community at large on the importance of protecting the children. You will become a key mode of information dissemination on this very important topic.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me re-iterate that with Education we can all collaborate to put this issue to an end. Our beautiful nation must become a safe haven for all our children. Together we all can make a difference. I urge all of you to act and let this heinous actions come to a full stop.

Ladies and gentlemen, with these words, I wish all participants of this Seminar a very enriching and informative experience and thank the organisation group for their vision and foresight. I do hope this message of mine and the organisers do not only remain confined to you all, but reaches out to everyone in this country – the employers, NGO’s and civil society organisations, educational institutions, parents, children, community leaders, and faith based groups.

In every discourse of yours, our children, our future and future of this nation, must be included. For some, the bottom line is different, but morality and social responsibility should also be an objective, secondary at least. Thank you. Vinaka Vakalevu and Danyavaad

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