COVID-19  India Project #48906

COVID-19 Emergency: Prevent Return to Child Labour

by Action against Child Exploitation (ACE)
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COVID-19 Emergency: Prevent Return to Child Labour
COVID-19 Emergency: Prevent Return to Child Labour
COVID-19 Emergency: Prevent Return to Child Labour
COVID-19 Emergency: Prevent Return to Child Labour
COVID-19 Emergency: Prevent Return to Child Labour
COVID-19 Emergency: Prevent Return to Child Labour
COVID-19 Emergency: Prevent Return to Child Labour
COVID-19 Emergency: Prevent Return to Child Labour
COVID-19 Emergency: Prevent Return to Child Labour
COVID-19 Emergency: Prevent Return to Child Labour
COVID-19 Emergency: Prevent Return to Child Labour
COVID-19 Emergency: Prevent Return to Child Labour
COVID-19 Emergency: Prevent Return to Child Labour
COVID-19 Emergency: Prevent Return to Child Labour
COVID-19 Emergency: Prevent Return to Child Labour
COVID-19 Emergency: Prevent Return to Child Labour
COVID-19 Emergency: Prevent Return to Child Labour
COVID-19 Emergency: Prevent Return to Child Labour
COVID-19 Emergency: Prevent Return to Child Labour
COVID-19 Emergency: Prevent Return to Child Labour
COVID-19 Emergency: Prevent Return to Child Labour
COVID-19 Emergency: Prevent Return to Child Labour
COVID-19 Emergency: Prevent Return to Child Labour
COVID-19 Emergency: Prevent Return to Child Labour
COVID-19 Emergency: Prevent Return to Child Labour

A big thank you to everyone for their support of this project over the last few months. 

We ACE, with our experienced local NGO partner, SPEED, have been working in the villages in the state of Telangana, India where cotton production is thriving, in order to eradicate child labour and support their education. 
 
On January 30th, ACE successfully conducted "India Online Tour” for supporters! This tour was planned to relay the supporters and the project site online, have them see the status and facilities of the project site, closely interact with the children and experience the actual situation of the project site. 

The program was kicked off with the introduction of local staff and facilities of the bridge school and vocational training centre, with the guidance of SPEED. 

Showing around the classroom of the bridge school, a SPEED staff pointed the camera to outdoors in clear blue sky and started to introduce the school playground and kitchen. Then, on the way to the vocational training centre, which is about a minute's walk from the bridge school, while listening to their guidance we started to feel as if we were walking with the SPEED staff there. 

At both the bridge school and the vocational training centre, children cheerfully waved their hands with smiles to greet us. 

Here, the long-awaited interview with the children has finally started! 
This comes to the program highlight where each supporter asks own questions directly to the children. 

~"There were many days when I was very sad to work” Children's candid voices~ 

"What is the most fun part of studying at Bridge School?" 
-At Bridge School, I am very happy to be able to study while playing and singing in a healthy and beautiful environment. Here, the teachers happily teach us the basics. - 
 
"How did you feel when you were working?" 
-When I was working in a cotton field with my parents, there were many days when I was very sad to work. While working in a cotton field, pesticides were sprayed, and the smell caused me to suffer from severe headaches and stomach pain. When I was picking cotton by hand, I had allergies to my hands and feet, and felt severe pain, and it was very hard to work. I was wondering why I had to do this job and for whom. - 

"How did you feel about the situation where you have to work even though you are a child?" 
-When I was a child, my family was poor, so I had to go to work in a cotton field with my parents. I was very sad when I went to the cotton field, but my parents couldn't get me to school, so I always wondered when I would be free from work. Now I am enjoying learning tailoring training very much. - 

At first, the children seemed a little nervous, but as they answered the questions of the supporters who spoke gently, they seemed to be relaxed little by little. 

Children ask questions to Japanese people 
The time for questions from children to Japanese supporters was also set up! 

"What kind of food do you eat in Japan?" 
"Please tell us what kind of industry there is in Japan." 
"Please tell us about the Japanese education system." 
 
Wow! They have so much curiosity!  

Each question was kindly answered in plain words, such as the abundance of Japanese food, the car manufacturing industry and Japanese manga culture, and the compulsory education system in Japan. 

After about an hour of active interaction, the online tour unfortunately came to an end. 

There were some happenings that didn't go as planned, but that showed even more the real and gave us feeling of local culture and values. Although it was within a limited time, we believe that every participant enjoyed it to the fullest while recognizing the local situation! 

In this way, we were able to see beautiful scenes where the supporters and the local children actively interacted to get to know each other, spending interactive and meaningful time together. It was a very fulfilling time to ACE as well. 
 
~Think about children, working together with supporters~ 

Providing such an opportunity, with a closer look at the local situation and the daily lives of children, we are certain that interaction with children raise much awareness to the supporters in problems and issues in child labour and cotton production. It would be one of the triggers for people to keep them in mind on a daily basis, and definitely helps to eradicate child labour step by step by working together collectively. 

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A big thank you to everyone for their support of this project over the last few months.   

Although we people in the project still continue to take countermeasures against the spread of the infection, we ACE received good news from the field "Reopening the school"! Finally, our experienced local NGO partner, SPEED, was able to resume the operation of our bridge school in September.

On December 13th, we conducted a video call with children who had previously worked in the cotton fields and only started attending the bridge school recently but had been unable to attend the bridge school for over a year due to the covid-19 pandemic.  

In an interview with five children, they seemed very happy to be back in the bridge school for the first time in over a year, smiling a lot while repeating "happy". When asked their favorite subject, they answered "English", the local language "Telugu", "Mathematics", "Kabaddi", "Soccer", and "Chess" one after another. 

"I'm happy to be able to go to the bridge school and study every day. I've been studying alone during the pandemic, but now I'm able to go to the school again and feel like I'm studying better. I'm not anxious about the loss of study caused by school closure but am more than happy that the school has resumed. It's a lot of fun with friends. I want to be a police officer in the future, so I’ll do my best to study. " 

About 3 months after the bridge school reopened, now 75 children are attending school. Our bridge school provides school uniforms, school supplies, and school lunches so that even economically deprived families can send their children to school. 

Empowering the independence of girls who could not attend school 

Today, I would like to share with you another great piece of news! The operation of the vocational training center for making paper plates started this month in the project area. It provides basic education and vocational training for making paper plates to 10 girls who did not receive compulsory education. They will be empowered to live independently with their profession so that they can continue to work in a safe environment. 

We also currently operate the tailor vocational training center for 20 girls. By operating two vocational training centers with different professions, a variety of techniques, and an environment where girls can help each other is created, which will lead to ensuring the safety of girls in the project area. With more opportunities to express their opinions and learning new techniques, girls are becoming more and more confident and making obvious changes. 

With the smiles of children 

ACE seeks effective educational support for children whose learning opportunities have been lost due to school closure. We continue to improve the educational environment and support the future of children as well as their families and communities who would like to support them. 

We continue to seek appropriate operations in these unprecedented situations, believe the situation will improve in the near future soon, and will steadily move forward step by step. 

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A big thank you to everyone for your support of this project over the last few months.  

In our last report, we reported on the reopening of the Bridge School in mid-March and the return of the children after a gap of about one year. However, due to the re-emergence of the covid-19 pandemic, a lockdown was imposed in the project area in the state of Telangana, and the Bridge School was sadly closed again in May.  

Although the lockdown was lifted in Telangana in late June, there is still no prospect of the school reopening. Especially in rural areas, including the project villages, access to online education is limited, so children have to continue studying at home under tough conditions.  

 

Supporting children's learning and preventing child labour  

The covid-19 pandemic has led to a loss of educational opportunities for children and reduced income and unemployment for their parents.  

In the project, our experienced local NGO partner, SPEED, distributes educational materials to the children as emergency assistance, continues to make rounds of the project area, and conducts home visits in collaboration with the local community, mainly to the families of children attending the bridge school. We continue to assess each child's situation and provide support for their learning to ensure that the children do not return to child labour during the school closure. The children have been repeatedly practising and reading the materials provided to them, and when the SPEED staff visit their homes, children willingly tell them about the stories they are reading and which books they like.  

 

Efforts not to return to child labour  

When the Bridge School reopened in March, it was a great pleasure and achievement to see 75 children back in school. They themselves were eagerly awaiting their return! We also have seen a positive change in the children's lives during regular home visits – children have not returned to child labour during the school closure! At every home visit by SPEED staff, children tell them how they spend every day or that they have engaged in home learning. This is one of the most obvious progress of the project.  

 

Ongoing work to protect children  

Please let me share a story to show how your support contributes to children and their families' needs in one of our project villages.  

In a family of four children, both parents had been infected with the covid-19. When SPEED staff visited the family for the regular assessment, it found out that the family was in great need as the parents were day labourers. The children felt extremely lonely and anxious and needed support.  

So we supported the children to access the regional public health service and take a PCR test at the hospital. After they were confirmed negative, we helped to isolate the children from their parents at their home properly. At the same time, we provided food supplies to the family to not have to worry about their daily food needs. The continued regular visits by SPEED staff and the provision of food helped stabilise the children's emotional well-being and their parents' recovery. Now, the parents are fully recovered, and the whole family is living together.    

 

What would have happened to this family if local staff did not conduct the visit?

This event reaffirmed for us that it is crucial and meaningful to continue patrolling the village and visiting families to check on the villagers' current situation and communicate with them, as well as to continue to provide mental support to the children, even under such difficult circumstances.  

On the one hand, this support provides educational opportunities for the children. It helps to cope with the loss of income and unemployment of their parents. Still, on the other hand, it goes without saying that there is a need for further support and sustained efforts to prevent children who have been out of school for more than a year from going back to engaging in child labour.  

Together with SPEED, we will continue long-term, effective and sustainable approaches to supporting both children and their parents in this difficult situation. Thank you again for your support. 

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A big thank you to everyone for their support of this project over the last few months.

The number of people infected with the new coronavirus continues to rise in India, with daily infections exceeding 360,000 on April 28. A curfew has also been imposed in the state of Telangana where the project operates.

In the village, before the second wave hit, schools resumed in February and March for those in grade 6 and above.That also meant our bridge school was allowed to reopen and children returned to the classrooms.

 Today, I would like to share with you the story of two siblings, a 13 year-old sister and 11 year-old brother who both returned to our bridge school from mid-April. I asked a staff member of our partner organization to connect me to them and we talked via video call from Japan (hence the poor quality of the images).

They had previously worked in the cotton fields and only started attending the bridge school in 2019, when the school was closed in March 2020 due to the covid-19 pandemic. Whenever the staff conducted home visits to their house over the past year they would be asked, "When will the school open again?

Since the school reopened in March, they have been going to the bridge school every day. They told me that they are just happy to be able to play with their friends now. But they can't play together in large groups. They also told me that they have to wear a mask. I have to change my surgical mask every day, so except for the days when the teacher gives me a surgical mask, I use a cloth mask that I wash myself. The tailor in the village makes the masks

The virus has also changed their lives in other respects. They can no longer travel outside the village, and the festival that they were looking forward to attend was cancelled. When there was no school, they stayed at home every single day to take care of their family's chickens. 

During the school closure, I studied using a home study kit provided by the PEACE-India project. My big sister also showed me her school notes on Telugu and English words [the official languages in Telangana state]". She went on to say, "I am sad because I can't see the people I want to see and I can't live in peace. I am sad. I wonder why the coronavirus came to us. 

Thank you for your support. It has allowed us to help these children during these unprecedented times. We will continue our operations while taking countermeasures against the spread of the infection.

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Home visit to community children by SPEED staff
Home visit to community children by SPEED staff

The Economic Situation

The cotton harvesting season has just come to an end in the villages across Telangana State. The harvest was low this year, both as a result of heavy rain and the limited number of workers out in the fields due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To maintain social distancing measures and reduce labour costs, the cotton labour force was approximately 50% smaller than a typical year.

At the end of the cotton harvest season, day labourers would normally leave the village to go work in the city, but this year they cannot move beyond state borders. As such, many people cannot reach their usual work destinations. Without these jobs, their debts are likely to rise. Right now, relatives are trying to help each other. We have been providing ration kits and food assistance which is a crucial form of support during a time of little-to-no access to income.

Anxiety levels in the communities amid the pandemic varies household to household. Some people are afraid of getting infected and are reluctant to go out to work. Many children live in households where parents or older family members firmly restrict life at home. However, as the number of people working in the cotton fields continue to decrease (since there is no money to pay wages), some people are trying to get their children to work instead (as they do not receive any money for their work). The project staff and resident volunteers are doing rounds, inspecting fields and talking with children (and their parents) to ensure they are not returning to the fields and their rights are being protected.

What’s Happening with Children’s Education?

School have been closed since the lockdown at the end of March. In Telangana state and Andhra Pradesh state, the 9th and 10th grade were initially allowed to go back to school in November, however, one school saw an outbreak of the infection and so all were closed again. They were scheduled to reopen in December, but this has yet again been pushed back indefinitely.

Online classes accessible via smartphones are being provided by the state government during this period. However, in rural areas like where PEACE-India operates, children do not have phones. Even in households where parents own a phone, only one child can view an online class at one time which is limiting for families with children in various grades. This means educational disparities will widen even further between wealthy and poor families. There have also been incidents where children have borrowed a neighbour’s phone and been meeting up to learn together, resulting in tensions arising within communities as groups of children have been gathering in households and out on the street – breaching social distancing measures. With schools closed and strict constraints within households, there is no place for children in the villages. As such, the project has been giving extra attention to providing emotional and psychological support to children.

ACE and SPEED have also been providing support for children to study at home. This includes school supplies and study support via home visits (conducted in compliance with social distancing and other infection prevention measures). We also provide colouring books and other forms of indoor stimulation for children who were working and were not receiving an education before the pandemic (since they cannot read or write). 

Moving Forward

Our field staff are always being asked by the children when the bridge school will re-open. We haven't been able to open the bridge school yet because we are required to follow the same rules as the public-school system, but we would like to restart as early as possible and provide a place where children can feel safe and at ease.

Since we are very concerned that many children will not be able to return to school and instead will become child labourers even after schools are reopened, the field staff are calling on residents to not only keep their children at home but to be active within their communities to check that other children in their neighbourhoods are protected from child labour.

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Organization Information

Action against Child Exploitation (ACE)

Location: Taitoku, Tokyo - Japan
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @ace_japan
Project Leader:
Yuko Tayanagi
Taitoku, Tokyo Japan
$1,735 raised of $15,000 goal
 
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