CHILDREN LEAD THE WAY IN NICARAGUA
On Sept. 24th to 28th, I went to Nicaragua for a technical visit focusing on the Working Children Component. I was attentive to review the education activities in this component supported by the Program. The purposes of the visit were:
- To discuss Country efforts to articulate CLW’s project strategy with the overall Education Program in Nicaragua.
- To analyze how partners are working together to implement the Harvest Plan so that they promote school retention and sensitize producers, parents and communities to the importance of education for children and adolescents.
- To review vocational training and professional training developed in formal and non-formal education, to develop life skills for working youth in the target municipalities.
The visit included meetings in Managua (the capital city) and in the region of Matagalpa, especially in the municipalities of La Dalia and el Cua (rural municipalities). In these municipalities the coffee production is a good area to find a job for most of the population including children and youth. Coffee is the first product of exportation and moves of the economy of the country.
CLW Program in Nicaragua develops strategies for prevention of school dropout, including initiatives to access and retention of working children under 14 in the school system. For adolescent from 14 to 18 years old, the Program promotes vocational and professional training so they should have access to decent work. The experiences visited are examples of good practices on education for working children.
The following is a summary of the main activities developed during the visit:
In la Dalia: Visit to the farm “La Florida” one of the five farms where the “Harvest Plan” is under implementation by the local NGO CESESMA and the participation of MINTRAB (Ministry of Labour), SILAIS (Ministry of Health) and MINED (Ministry of Education). The “Harvest Plan” is a strategy agreed by the government to protect children against exploitation and to guarantee that they continue receiving education during the coffee harvest period. As the parents move to the farms with their children, the farms hire a monitor to follow up education activities to avoid school desertion. The farm also develops child protection activities against sexual abuse and exploitation. Recreation and sports also happen including support to create book corners, sport fields, computer centre and art and crafts facilities.
During the visit to la Florida farm I had the opportunity to see: (i) a workshop on the worst forms of child labour promoted by the child protection network, (ii) the implementation of activities in the book corner to promote pleasure by children to read and write, (iii) a vocational training activity on knit including boys and girls, (iv) meeting with representatives of two Ministries (MITRAB and SILAIS), the farm manager and CESESMA. Over the meeting it was interesting to see the commitment of the manager of the farm to contribute in guaranteeing children’s rights and the joint effort by all the actors to guarantee child protection on the farm. (vi) participation in one training in CESESMA’s headquarters, with reader promoters’ network. The training was taken by adolescents that work with the communities to promote reading.
In el Cua: Participation in: (i) two professional training activities on coffee, one practical in a coffee plantation focuses on the identification of pests. The second in a community centre on producing organic pesticides. (ii) Visit to the multi grade school “La Libertad” located in rural areas where the project is promoting vocational training to children. One of the Vocational Training activities visited was setting up a garden with the participation of students and parents. (iii) Meeting with the partners CUCULMECA, MITRAB and SILAIS, to know more about the “Education Bridges” experience, as part of the Harvest Plan. The Education Bridges is looking for guaranteeing children’s rights to health, education and protection.
In Managua: Visit to the NGO Human Promotion Institute- INPROHU (SC’s partner not directly involved in CLW’s Project but in other initiatives with Working Children especially those working in the market places). The idea with this visit was to know more about their model of intervention to guarantee access to quality education for WC and how do they document their practices. CLW program in Nicaragua would like to take lessons from this experience to contribute improving the current one.
Summary of findings:1) The richness of the reading environment. One of the most striking matters of the visit was the reading environment created by the project in rural areas, where the lack of opportunities to access books and literacy is an issue. Parents, teachers, communities, producers, farm managers, local authorities, all together recognise the importance of literacy and promote spaces/activities to develop with children and youth the pleasure of reading. The different strategies developed by the partner CESESMA, such as the book corners, the story time, workshops on creative reading/writing, reading fairs; monitors training, reading promoters’ networks are very successful and could serve as a tool to improve learning results. However, it was recommended to identify an evaluation tool to measure learning and literacy skills. The evaluation should show needs of improving the strategy especially in the techniques to improve reading skills.
2) The value added of CLW Project to the Harvest Plan and the Education Bridges. The visit was an opportunity to understand that the Harvest Plan is a joint effort involving civil society organizations and the government to prevent child labour in the coffee sector. With the support of SC, this initiative has been improved and strengthened. The different activities promoted to guarantee education for children during the harvest time has been useful to avoid children’s dropout and failure of the school system. The “education bridges” as part of the Harvest Plan is an excellent strategy to ensure that children continue their education, even if they move with their parents to the coffee plantations during the harvest period. They continue studying in the farms with monitors and they are beneficiaries of other educational activities such as the reading promotion initiatives, sports, vocational training, and arts and crafts, among others. The education passport is an excellent tool to guarantee that it’s mandatory for the school to receive children after the coffee harvest period and, to follow up their progress. It was recommended to specify/highlight the contribution/value added of CLW to the Harvest Plan in general and to the Education Bridges in particular.
3) To review the contribution of CLW to improve quality education for Working Children. Since the beginning of CLW Program design, the main strategy was to promote “Decent Work” for working children, to fight against child exploitation and to protect them of the worst forms of child labour. Education initiatives including access/retention to the school system, vocational training and professional training including life skills were considerate the way to protect children. However, the issue of quality education wasn’t introduced as a priority in the project. Nicaragua is working to introduce elements that should contribute to the quality education for the working children beneficiaries of the project. This is why it was recommended to establish linkages with other existing projects such as the “Secure and Quality schools” Project, supported by SC Norway, that has been built a model of intervention focus on quality education. The team will work to find the links between the two projects.
4) To strengthen the professional training including life skills. The partner CUCULMECA, has seen very strong in the design and implementation of professional training including intensive courses on relevant topics: coffee, organic agriculture, basic grains, livestock, ecotourism etc. They are implemented in their rural areas of intervention. The courses are very practical and they are delivered according to the demand and interests of youth. However, they are too short (three months each) and participants request to have more time or at least two modules with different thematic areas to strengthen their knowledge. CUCULMECA is reviewing this and working to guarantee at least 6 months of training. Good news is that the courses are accredited by the government and participants receive a certification after completion of the training. Taking into account that CUCULMECA’s mandate is to work on citizenship, participation, environment and education, it was recommended to introduce some aspects of citizenship and participation as components that allow strengthening leadership competencies and life skills in students. It was also recommended to consider include youth labour rights as part of the training.
5) The role of the Ministry of Education. Even though it was mentioned by all actors visited that the MINED played an important role in the project, the visit didn’t have the opportunity to meet their staff, due to other activities already planned. However, in contrast to the MITRAB and SILAIS, MINED doesn’t appear as a partner in the project design and reports. This is an issue to be considered because according to the location of the project and the priorities established MINED should be key for sustainability purposes of the project.
– To consider introducing activities that promotes quality education for WC as well as an evaluation tool to identify progress on literacy through reading environment promoted by the project.
– To establish linkages between CLW and the “Secure and Quality Schools” project supported by SC Norway. First step should be the identification of schools where both projects are present and to develop a pilot that link them.
– To identify the strengths, contributions and value added of CLW to the Harvest Plan and the Education Bridges. To plan a way to evaluate them.
– Review the planning of the professional training for youth developed by CUCULMECA with the idea of extending the period of training as well as the content including life skills, citizenship and participation.
– Review the partnership with the Ministry of Education and opportunities to strengthen their support to the Project.