Sat, 09 Dec 2000

Education program launched to combat child labor in RI

JAKARTA (JP): The Ministry of National Education and the International Labor Organization (ILO) launched a program on Friday titled "Integrated Approach of Non-Formal Education to Combat Child Labor" to provide 19.2 million children with improved basic education.

The ministry data from 1994/1995 to 1998/1999 shows that at least 11.7 million of the country's children are not yet completely provided with either formal or non-formal education, with many of them ending up in the work force as child labor.

Meanwhile, 7.5 million children within the school age are not enrolled in school.

"Although not all of these children are working, ILO's International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC) estimates around six million children, aged between seven and 15 years old, participate in the labor market as child labor," ILO officer Patrick Quinn said on Friday.

He said the objective of the project is to improve the quality of the existing national non-formal education system, in order to make it more suited to the needs of the working children, and at the same time support the success of the government's nine-year compulsory education scheme.

"The child labor project, slated to start next year, will be structured with a Paket A program, which is equivalent to elementary school, and a Paket B program which replicates junior high school material," Director General for Non Formal Education, Youth, and Sport Makmuri Muchlas told The Jakarta Post after the signing of the agreement.

The program will first start in the three provinces of West Java, East Java and South Sulawesi.

For informal students who are already working the skills and information training given will be relevant to the area of their work, Makmuri said.

Formal education programs that have previously been used for these children have often provided junior high school studies in small open-air sessions, or provided education by correspondence.

Statistical data in May 1998 revealed that at least 40 percent of the country's 204,567,000 people are living below the poverty line, Makmuri said.

To date, the number of children in primary and junior secondary education, between seven and 15 years of age, is estimated at around 39 million.

According to the ministry data in 1998/1999, the dropout rate at elementary school is 3.01 percent, junior high school 4.89 percent and high school 3.44 percent. While the number of those who didn't continue their education to a higher level is as follows: elementary school 22.6 percent, junior high school 33.6 percent and high school 34.6 percent.

"While the number of dropouts aged between seven and 15 years old -- that is those who didn't complete their elementary and/or junior high education -- is around 10 million," Makmuri said.

He said these children had the right to receive proper basic education. At least in reading, writing and counting.

"We cannot stop them from entering the labor market, especially with the economic crisis and the fact that there will always be parties who are willing to employ them.

"Under such conditions, at least what they ought to have is a basic education," he said.

Indonesia has earlier ratified ILO Convention No. 138 on the minimum age for admission to employment, which varies between 15 and 18 years of age depending on the type of work, and Convention No. 182 on the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor.

"Child labor is a complex and difficult problem and we know that we won't be able to eliminate child labor in Indonesia effectively by using education measures only.

"But hopefully this effort will make a significant contribution to the fate of those children," Quinn said. (edt)