Nov 10, 2020

Report on UKBET's project for child labourer

Pial with his father in front of their tea stall
Pial with his father in front of their tea stall

In Bangladesh, it is illegal for children under 14 to work. Despite this, an estimated 4.8 million children are employed full time, many doing hazardous work. Many poor families depend on their children’s labour to enable them to survive financially. 

Pial, a boy of 14, works at his father’s tea stall. His father has a cardiac condition which means he cannot do any heavy work. Pial had to leave school and start work due to his family’s extreme poverty and his father’s bad health. Their small tea stall is the only source of income for Pial’s family. Joining the ‘UKBET centre for working children’ in Beanibazar has given Pial the opportunity to continue learning literacy and numeracy and develop important life skills, alongside his work. 

During the pandemic the tea stall was shut shown and Pial’s family faced destitution. Initially, UKBET helped the family buy food, but sadly the impact of the pandemic meant the family lost the capital they needed to continue running their business and they had to take a loan to manage even their most basic everyday needs. 

Pial’s father decided that Pial’s sisters would also have to leave school in order to earn money for the family. He planned to send them to work in people’s houses as domestic workers. At this critical time, UKBET intervened and supported the family to restart their business with a grant of just BDT 5000.00 (£48, $62). Now, the tea stall has reopened and their modest income will enable the family to meet their everyday needs and, crucially, Pial’s sisters can continue with their education at school. 

Thanks to teachers and field organisers like Raju from UKBET’s Beanibazar centre, UKBET has been able to maintain close contact with the working children and their families who are part of our projects, even though UKBET’s office is closed due to the pandemic.

Predictions by CAMPE, Bangladesh indicate that one third children will be forced to leave school and many of them become child workers due to the devastating impact of the pandemic on the health and poverty of the poorest families in Bangladesh. 

UKBET's interventions in the lives of working children and their families have been an outstanding success as the siblings of the working children in our programme has not followed their brother or sister into work. We believe this achievement is significant. It demonstrates how a small charity that understands and has close connections with beneficiaries can support a change in behaviour of a particular target group. 

However all this is about to change. A survey of the 263 families known so well to UKBET reveals that their suffering during the COVID/19 lockdown is extreme. 124 families have told UKBET's fieldworkers that their lack of money is so desperate they have no alternative but to seek

work for as many of their children as possible as soon as the lockdown ends. This can be a huge step backwards towards the goal of ending of hazardous child labour if we don’t take preventive action. UKBET intends to continue talking with all 124 parents and guardians to better understand what individual support each family needs to generate income so that their 1,138 children can start or continue school when they re-open. 

These worrying changes are reflected in our bi annual monitoring survey below: 

Key findings of the survey on September 2020 in UKBET’s WCP project areas: 

-         705 shops in 6 different project areas were surveyed.

-         Whilst in January 2020 fewer children undertaking hazardous were observed in Lawai, Kodomtoli, Bus Terminal and Tuker bazar there was a significant upward trend in those same areas in September 2020. 

- Many of the new working children were seen still wearing their school uniforms!

-  A decreasing number of children were observed in the Beanibazar and Bypass project areas.

 Please make a regular or one-off donation to UKBET today – this will enable us to continue giving transformative support to working children and their families, like Pial’s, during this difficult time.

A child at hazardous work
A child at hazardous work
A child at hazardous work
A child at hazardous work

Jun 4, 2020

Project for the children engaged in hazardous work

The Government of Bangladesh are signatories to the ILO Convention No.182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour and passed legislation forbidding Hazardous Child Labour in 2006. The Government has also set national targets to end all hazardous labour by 2021. Nevertheless, 1.2 million children in Bangladesh continue to be employed in hazardous work. Poverty drives families to send their children to work denying them access to school and education. Exposure to long hours of physical work, poor food, low or no wages and vulnerability seriously damage these children’s physical and mental health. UKBET focuses on improving the lives of working children through involving employers, family members, government agencies and local influencers in holistic programmes of education and awareness-building. During 2019 there were two main programmes targeting working children: - Children (all boys) working in hazardous jobs who attended Centres for Working – - Children (mostly girls) undertaking domestic work in their employer’s homes through the Doorstep Learning programme. Employers are persuaded to release children to attend sessions at UKBET Centres, or in employer’s homes through the Doorstep Learning programme, where they are taught basic education and survival skills, given nutritious food, medical care and rare opportunities to relish their childhood. Employers are also encouraged to end the recruitment of children and help to improve health and safety in their workplaces. Families are supported out of joblessness through the provision of small employment related grants. Lobbying, campaigns and demonstrations against the use of child labour involve a wide range of other agencies and key individuals. Key activities and results of work with children in hazardous labour 514 children attended one of four UKBET Centre for Working Children near their place of work: - Tuker Bazar 90 children - Kodomtoli 80 children - Chondipul 48 children - Beanibazar 80 children 121 children left hazardous work, as compared to 81 in 2018; 106 moved away from the project area. 26 children left hazardous work and progressed to formal education. Whilst this number may appear low it is a significant achievement given the reluctance of schools to enroll working children who have missed years of education. It also represents a significant shift in families’ circumstances and/or perspectives on the value of formal education. 18 siblings of working children who would have been expected to follow their brothers into child labour were instead enrolled in schools. 4 children engaged in hazardous labour passed the Primary School Certificate Exam. 8 children were enrolled in vocational training. All the children UKBET supports suffer from malnutrition. Following the signing of a MOU between UKBET and Euglena GG Ltd the company now provides free biscuits containing 100% of the daily requirement of Vitamin A, Iron, Iodine and Zinc (the most required nutrients for Bangladeshi children). Visible improvements in the health and appearance of the children have subsequently been observed. All children attending UKBET Centres enjoy: - acknowledgement of their educational progress after year-end assessments of progress. - being given new clothes and food packs for their families for Eid ul-Adha and Eid ul-Fitr religious festivals. - occasional sporting, and entertainment events.

Dec 10, 2019

Project for the children engaged in hazardous work

Every day in Sylhet Bangladesh 3000 young children go to work in jobs that are dangerous. They work for long hours on no or low pay; illness and accidents are frequent. They are deprived of any kind of education. UKBET changes all of this by engaging families and employers in bringing education to children through our Centers for Working Children.

The project's approach is holistic. We persuade employers to release children from work to attend an "UKBET Center for Working Children". Here children are taught basic education and survival skills and can progress into vocational training and non-hazardous occupations. We provide their employers with health and safety training and at the same time confront and discourage their future employment of children. We attack the root causes of poverty by helping parents find alternative income sources. Here is a brief report on our activities and achievement so far:

• 2013 to till now the project has worked with almost 800 children.

• At present we are working with 306 children who are engaged in different kinds of hazardous works.

• These children are attending three education sessions (1.5 hours) per week. A curriculum is developed considering their condition and need. The curriculum included literacy, numeracy skills along with necessary life skills. It also prepare the interested students to go back to main stream education.

• The children gets nutritious meal during their sessions.

• In 2019, 22 children have gone back to formal schooling leaving the hazardous works.

• 20 Children have been admitted into vocational training in 2019.

• Awareness raising in families of the children is one of the major activities of the project. We regularly organize awareness raising program for the families. Our field worker visits families of each every child and motivate the parents for withdrawing their children from hazardous work and also not to send their other children to these works. As result of our work, till now 393 children have left hazardous work. This includes 110 children in 2019.

• We also support the families to raise income by providing them interest free micro credit, engaging them in vocational training or referring them to other NGO working for poverty elevation. This year alone we have provided interest free micro credit to 21 families who have invested the capital in small business like selling vegetable in cart or some of them have invested the money in home based small scale poultry business.

• We have also worked very closely with the employers of the children. We have made them aware about the laws in regard to child labor or demerits of employing of children. As per a recent survey, the number of working children in our project areas have dropped 20% in this year.

• We are also working with the concern department of government and also with local City Corporation for elimination of hazardous child labor.

• We have opened a new center for working children at Beanibazar, Sylhet. This center has started operation from 1st November 2019. 74 children have already been enrolled in this center. They are attending the education sessions and getting other benefits of the project.

Case study:

Habibur is a 17 years old boy who lives in Bus Terminal area, kadamtoli, Sylhet. He has six sisters. He is the only brother among his siblings and the main bread earner of the family. Habibur used to work at a glass manufacturing factory which was very risky for him as he is physically challenged. His salary was BDT 50.00 (less than half pound) per day. He faced discrimination in salary for his disability. Sometime in November, 2017 he met a teacher from UKBET who convinced and motivated him to join UKBET’s Center for working children. He started his part time education there and passed the Primary School Certificate examination from UKBET center and this achievement increased his confidence level. UKBET also supported him to get proper treatment to overcome physical problem. Besides all of these, UKBET’s teacher visited him family and motivated them to allow Habibur to receive vocational training. As a result, he got admitted in welding training course provided by a partner organization of UKBET on June, 2019. The vocation training provider will place him a suitable job after the training.

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