PHILIPPINES: Young cane workers head back to school

Published: 06/22/2012, 5:22:50 PM

After years of working in a sugar plantation in Negros Occidental, 100 young workers have abandoned their farm tools and trooped back to school, according to the Philippines' Star.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said 100 child workers in Barangay Antipolo in Pontevedra, Negros Occidental were the first beneficiaries of the government's "Child Labor-Free" campaign.

Of the 100 young workers, 73 are now attending elementary classes while the rest are now high school students.

"There were over a hundred of these child laborers in Barangay Antipolo, but the Department of Labor and Employment is moving to make this barangay child labor-free before yearend," Baldoz said.

According to Baldoz, Barangay Antipolo has been known as a hub of child laborers as many children there are forced to skip school and work for long hours just to help augment their family's income.

"Because of this, DOLE has identified Barangay Antipolo as one of those barangays nationwide that needs to be freed from the worst forms of child labor," Baldoz said.

She said that last May, many parents in Barangay Antipolo expressed desire to send their children back to school and avail of government programs that would give them additional income so they wouldn't have to force their children to work in the sugar plantation.

To kick off the campaign, DOLE distributed school kits consisting of a backpack containing pads of paper, pencils and pens, crayons, notebooks and envelopes, raincoats and umbrellas, tumblers, toiletries and other school supplies.

The young workers, on the other hand, surrendered their farm tools to DOLE as a symbol of their desire to leave work and return to school.

"It is about time that we take a developmental approach in helping child laborers and their parents to free our country's barangays from the bondage of child labor, particularly in its worst forms," Baldoz said.