DAVAO CITY — Jepoy, 16, has been working for a sugarcane plantation in Bukidnon since he was 12 years old. At a young age, he decided to work to help his family for their survival.
Jepoy learned how to harvest cane, cut it, clean it and carry it in bundles. He does all these to earn P110 a day.
“I have seen that the salary of my father is not enough to suffice the daily needs of the family. I have put in mind that if I go to school, nothing will happen to me,” he said.
Breza, 17, has also been working in the sugarcane plantation since she was 11. Just like Jepoy, Breza was being forced by necessity to augment the family’s coffers.
Breza earns P75 a day from working in the plantation. Every day, she goes to the field and harvests sugarcane.
“It is my decision to work because of adversity. We are many in the family and my parents cannot afford to raise us all. That is why I have decided to stop during my first year in high school,” she said.
Jepoy and Breza are among the 5.5 million recorded cases of child labor the Philippines. According to the International Labor
The Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Inc. (EILER) has conducted a baseline study last year on the incidence of child labor in plantations and mining in six areas in the country.
The survey involved 700 households in mining and plantation communities in Bicol, Negros Occidental, Bukidnon, Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley, and Agusan del Sur.
“Highlights of the study show that there was incidence of child labor in one out of every five households,” said Anna Leah Colina, EILER executive director.
“The study indicates that child labor in the country has worsened as reflected in longer working hours of children, multiple jobs juggled my child laborers, and exposure to social hazards and occupational health and safety hazards,” Colina added.
It shows that there is “a high propensity” for child laborers to stop their studies. “Child laborers work for up to ten hours daily for a tiny fraction of the prevailing minimum wage.”
“Children start (working) as early as five years old. The most common age of transitioning from school to work is 12 years old,” she said.
According to the study, poverty and low family income are factors that push children to work at a young age.
“Ninety-six percent of the households we surveyed are living below the poverty threshold of the regions to which they belong,” Colina said.
EILER has been implementing a three-year project entitled, “Bata Balik-Eskwela: Community-based approach in combating child labor in hazardous industries in plantations and mining,” which is supported by the European Union.
“The main objective of the project is to reintegrate child laborers to formal schools through providing catch-up lessons for child laborers,” she said.
The group has built six Bata Balik-Eskwela Learning Centers. These learning centers are located in Camarines Norte, Negros Occidental, Agusan del Sur,
Aside from learning centers, they have also provided livelihood support to the parents of these child laborers.
“The livelihood we are giving to the parents is collective, not individual. We wanted the community to work [collectively],” Colina said.
EILER also continues to conduct community forum to raise awareness about this issue.
“The problem of child labor is not just the problem of the parents, it is the society’s problem,” she said.
“The commemoration of the World Day against Child Labor in the Philippines should be done with the continued exposition of the dire situation of the child laborer in hazardous work, to clearly show the dire working conditions of our children and encourage community action in addressing the issue,” Colina added. (davaotoday.com)