India: Education International working with educators and allies to eliminate child labour

published 4 April 2023 updated 5 April 2023

“Every child has the right to learn, play, and grow up without being exploited," stated All India Primary Teachers' Federation (AIPTF) General Secretary Kamala Kanta Tripathy during a recent mission led by Education International (EI) as part of EI's work to eliminate child labour.

"'Quality public full-time education for all is a prerequisite and the Government should ensure decent working conditions for teachers,” Tripathy added in reference to education as the single most effective way to eradicate child labour.

With member organisations, Education International has been developing and supporting anti-child labour projects in target countries across the world for over 10 years. These projects focus on making the school environment conducive to attract children to school and prevent school abandonment.

An EI delegation, comprised of Dominique Marlet, AIPTF General Secretary Tripathy and AIPTF project coordinator Nisha Cairae, visited the Indian Northern state of Rajasthan and met with local AIPTF affiliate leaders from March 19th-22nd to evaluate the progress of the child labour eradication programme undertaken with the support of the Dutch Government's five-year funding ‘Work: No Child’s Business’ (WNCB).

Deepak Mugdal, union coordinator of the Work No Child Business programme in Rajasthan, and Nisha Cairae, WNCB coordinator for the All India Primary Teacher Federation.

Child labour undermines quality education for all

Concerning India, in mid-2021, the child rights organisation Educo in this country and its partner, the Campaign Against Child Labour, warned that the COVID-19 pandemic had likely pushed more children into child labour, including its worst forms.

Also, a report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNICEF underlined that 9 million additional children were at the risk of being pushed into child labour by the end of 2022 globally, because of the COVID pandemic. In India, the closure of schools and the economic crisis faced by the vulnerable families, triggered by the pandemic, are likely drivers pushing children into poverty and thus, child labour and unsafe migration, the report noted.

During the recent mission, Tripathy reiterated that “we cannot have true education for all unless we end child labour”.

Teachers participating in the programme also expressed keen interest about learning opportunities for children inside and outside of school.

Although the AIPTF Rajasthan leaders have a superficial knowledge of the WNCB child labour eradication project, local leaders said that WNCB accelerated the speed of the union engagement in the fight against child labour. Education unionists focus on empowering parents, including those of at-risk children, to participate in school management committees, and collaboration has started with NGOs bringing children to school, with teachers and their union taking over from there.

Multiple challenges faced by educators in their fight against child labour

The Rajasthan union leaders also presented the challenges that teachers are facing in the state. While teachers have a good status and their pay has been increased, imposed transfers are an issue. Besides, four-fifths of teachers' time is devoted to administrative tasks like keeping a register of attendance and ordering daily meals and milk.

Technical meetings also tackled due diligence in the supply chain, education challenges, and the situation of first-generation learners. Diverse issues were underlined during these meetings, including:

  • Lack of a real governmental survey on the incidence of child labour.
  • Important learning loss due to COVID.
  • Half of the students in government schools are from lower castes and lack the social environment to support their learning.
  • Educational institutions still have many structural flaws.
  • Meetings with the NGOs working on the supply chains, such as Aravali, and Manjari, focused on the supply chain in mica minerals in Rajasthan, the role of schools in the supply chain, and the challenges of keeping at-risk children in education.
  • On-going child marriages.
  • Lack of unionisation for teachers in private education institutions.

Despite these challenges, AIPTF is mobilising educators throughout India to make sure all children are in school, not at work, and have access to quality education.

AIPTF will start training local teachers and resource persons to better connect the child labour eradication project with existing campaigns against privatisation and against school-related gender-based violence.