by Dr. Nanda K. Gopaul, Hon. Minister of Labour
Today we join the rest of the world in observing World Day Against Child Labour under the theme 'Extend Social Protection: Combat Child Labour'! This year's theme draws attention to the role of social protection in keeping children out of the child labour market.
Social Protection of our children is a human right and makes sound economic and social sense. It enables our children access to education, health care and nutrition and plays a critical role in the fight against child labour. Giving social protection to our children helps to prevent the scourge of child labour by reducing economic vulnerability of families, enabling children to go to school and protecting them from exploitation.
The Ministry of Labour re-affirms its commitment to combat all forms of child labour thus ensuring our children are given the opportunity to live healthy, happy and productive lives.
The Government has continued to put social programmes in place aimed at supporting families to meet basic needs. Among these are the school feeding programme, which provide a hot meal for children in many areas in our interior location. The Government also provides each child in the public school system with a uniform voucher to aid in the provision of school materials, including text books. An additional grant of $10,000 per child will be given to ensure that parents acquire other necessities for their children to attend and remain in school. In addition, transportation for children especially in remote areas is being provided and parents, especially single parents, are being empowered with requisite skills to better meet the needs of their families.
The Ministry of Labour, through its Labour Officers, continuously sensitizes students, parents, teachers, employees and employers on the negative impact of child labour. The Ministry also monitors and investigates reports of under-aged children who are engaged in any form of employment.
In this context, the Ministry wishes to express our appreciation for the support of the National Tripartite Committee, comprising employers, workers and labour movement representatives, employers and concerned citizens, who have been supportive of our efforts to tackle child labour.
We also salute the support of the International Labour Organisation in this fight.
Employers, parents, teachers, children; childhood is a time to grow. At this tender age, the body is developing and requires proper nutrition and exercise to grow. This is necessary to become productive adults. We need to ensure that every child has a full childhood and not one burdened by adult activities, such as employment and taking care of the family. In spite of difficult circumstances, children must not be put to do labourious work. It is against the law and deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity and can be harmful to their physical and mental development. It also affects their ability to attend school and education is critical to success and poverty reduction.
I am aware that there are unreported cases. Everyone has a duty to report cases of child labour. We need to expose these atrocities. At the level of Government we remain vigilant to guard against it and will continue to strive to improve the social protection that is necessary to prevent this scourge. The Government of Guyana is committed to ensuring that every child completes secondary education and move to even higher academic qualifications.
Let us all work together to prevent and end child labour in our society now!