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INDIA: Salesian Missionaries are Working to Eliminate Child Labor through Education and Rehabilitation

(MissionNewswireIndia has the largest number of child laborers under the age of 14 in the world, according to UNICEF. Many are engaged in dangerous occupations and live on the streets. In 2010, India passed a landmark law mandating that all children between the ages of 6 and 14 be in school, but according to UNICEF, millions of children remain in the workforce. Full implementation of the law went into effect in 2013, but child workers can still be found in almost every industry in India. The problem has been enforcing the law, particularly in high poverty regions of the country.

India is home to more than 400 million poor people or one third of the world’s poor, according to UNICEF. Although more than 53 million people escaped poverty between 2005 and 2010, most remain vulnerable to falling back below the poverty line.

There is a lack of educational opportunities in the country often due to issues of caste, class and gender and with 44 percent of the workforce illiterate, there is much work to be done. Less than 10 percent of the working-age population has completed a secondary education and too many secondary graduates do not have the knowledge and skills to compete in today’s changing job market.

“Children who are compelled to work, even for a fraction of the day, are deprived of the education they need to learn valuable skills that lead to stable employment later in life,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Unfortunately, in many situations, children are being forced to work around the clock with barely enough time to eat, let alone study, and their prospects in life are diminished.”

Since 2010, the Salesian-run Don Bosco Program for Young at Risk in Gulbarga, a city in the Indian state of Karnataka in the southern part of the country, has been working to prevent child labor and rehabilitate children who have been affected. The program, with a focus on education and community empowerment, has reached out to 15 villages and 16 city slums with activities focused on both preventing and solving issues related to child labor.

As part of the program, Salesian missionaries bring outreach workers to meet with youth living on the streets or in the slums of Gulbarga. Many of these youth are surviving by begging and working as child laborers in the railway station, bus stands, slums and markets. After outreach workers make initial contact, youth are slowly guided towards rehabilitation by connecting them back to their families or by placing them in child care institutions like the Don Bosco Program for Young at Risk or government hostels.

In addition to outreach, the Don Bosco Program for Young at Risk has been operating a day school that provides remedial education to youth ages 8 to 14 years and two rehabilitation centers for child laborers and youth living on the streets. More than 85 children are currently accessing shelter, nutritious food, education and life skills training at the centers. Close to 900 youth in 15 different locations within nine villages are accessing supplementary education helping to improve their academics and skills training. These supplementary classes cater to youth who have been forced into child labor and as a result, missed school and have fallen behind academically. The extra assistance is necessary for them to enter back into mainstream schools.

Salesian missionaries in India are also providing community empowerment interventions in the villages surrounding Gulbarga that offer education, self-help groups and regular awareness classes for women. The goal is to provide an understanding of the dangers of child labor and to promote the importance of education and the services and supports available.

“By integrating intensive training in current social issues such as child labor, human rights and women empowerment, among other topics, Salesians missionaries aim to effect long-term social change in addition to helping youth create a future where they can attend school and after graduation, find jobs in dignified, safe and profitable fields,” adds Fr. Hyde.


Don Bosco India – Child Labour Elimination through community empowerment at Don Bosco Project for Young at Risk Gulbarga, Karnataka

UNICEF – India

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