News 17 November 2017

Investing in education for older children reduces child labour

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Older children, aged 15 to 17, in cocoa growing communities are most at risk of hazardous child labour. They are more likely than children of other age groups to engage in work that threatens their health and safety such as applying chemicals, carrying heavy loads, cutting cocoa trees or burning fields. Ahead of World Children’s Day the International Cocoa Initiative urges for more investment in older children’s education as a way to reduce child labour and improve the lives of families in cocoa growing communities.

Child labour intensifies with age in cocoa growing communities. According to the Tulane University Survey, 59.8% of children aged 15 to 17 working in Ghana’s cocoa production are engaged in hazardous labour compared to 50.7% of children aged 11 to 14 and 27.5% of children aged 5 to 11. Cocoa farming communities in Côte d’Ivoire are similar: children aged 15 to 17 working in cocoa production engage in hazardous labour at a rate almost three times higher than children aged 5 to 11.

Hazardous child labour is high among older children due to a lack of educational opportunities. ICI works in 46 cocoa growing communities in Côte d’Ivoire; none of these communities have post-primary educational opportunities. The cocoa growing communities that ICI assists in Ghana are similar; few have senior secondary schools and none have technical and vocational education and training (TVET). Older children in both countries must travel long distances to access secondary school or TVET, with children in some cocoa growing communities in Côte d’Ivoire travelling as far as 66km.

School-related costs also pose a barrier to older children’s education. In Côte d’Ivoire, a child from a higher income family is 46 times more likely to enter senior secondary school than a child from a lower income family. Poor families often struggle to afford registration fees, school supplies, food and uniforms. Although Ghana recently abolished senior secondary school fees, overcrowded boarding houses mean that older children must pay for their own alternative accommodation resulting in continued financial barriers.

As a consequence of inaccessible educational opportunities, older children in cocoa growing communities in both Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire have the lowest school attendance rates of all age groups. Despite the high likelihood that they will be exposed to hazardous labour, they instead turn to cocoa farming to bolster their household income or strengthen their own skills.

Strengthening older children’s access to education is critical to reducing child labour and poverty in cocoa growing communities. When quality education is available, there is a strong incentive for families to delay their children’s entry into work and instead invest in their education. Educational attainment breaks intergenerational cycles of child labour; in Côte d’Ivoire, child labour rates decline as household heads’ level of education increases. Obtaining higher levels of education also reduces poverty, a key driver of child labour. Throughout Ghana, poverty declines as the education level of household heads increases.

Given education’s powerful capacity to reduce child labour, investing in older children’s education is essential in cocoa growing communities. ICI works in cocoa growing communities throughout Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire to promote awareness of child labour and children’s rights, including supporting communities to enhance children’s access to quality education.

Read the policy brief on education for older children in Côte d’Ivoire: http://www.cocoainitiative.org/knowledge-centre-post/education-and-child-labour-risk-for-older-children-in-cote-divoire/

Read the policy brief on child labour risks for older children in Ghana: http://www.cocoainitiative.org/knowledge-centre-post/older-children-at-risk-of-child-labour-in-ghanas-cocoa-growing-regions/