Yamikani Mlangiza, Assistant Programs Coordinator for Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM), accepted to reflect back for Worlds of Education on her experience attending a one-week training at the ILO International Training Center in Turin last year, with support from Education International.
WoE: Could you explain how you came to be involved in this course?
Yamikani: Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM), a trade union for public teachers in the country has been implementing various projects to safeguard the life of children (learners). One of such projects is on child labour. From 2019, TUM will start implementing a two-year new action program on child labour in Dowa with funding secured through Education International. It is because of this potential project that from 26th to 30th November 2018, I had the privilege of attending a short course on ‘Achieving education 2030 and eliminating child labour’.
WoE: Could you tell us a little bit more about the course and your experience in Turin?
Yamikani: The course was offered by the International Training Center of the International Labour Organization over five days of intensive in-depth sessions on various topics related to the subject matter: e.g. definitions, concepts, global estimates and core labour standards; Education 2030 agenda; progress and challenges on child labour; barriers to education; tackling exclusion; innovative learning; building resilience; gender aspects; transition from work to school; etc.
The training was attended by twenty-two delegates from various countries worldwide. This helped tremendously in enriching the discussions and the topics as it offered a diverse background from which to learn from. Discussions on different topics gave participants opportunities to share with the rest of the group on some of the strategies that are working for their countries and some that are not working. It also offered participants an opportunity to pick others’ brains on some of the issues being faced in their home countries. Overall, this allowed for a rich learning experience.
WoE: What are the most important takeaways for yourself and your union?
Yamikani: The information acquired throughout the course will help me better shape TUM’s strategies in our work eliminating child labour and promoting education for every child.
Firstly, the training helped me comprehend the need for a comprehensive approach to tackling the problem of child labour. Child labour cases and the children involved differ from one case to the other. The circumstances surrounding different children differ. With this in mind, one understands that the cookie cutter solutions where one solution is assumed to fit all cases is usually limited in its impact. However, when you have strategies that are tailored to individual groups’ needs, we increase the chances of success. For instance, how for older children who have been out of school for extended periods the best strategy would be to enroll them into a livelihood training and not into formal education.
Furthermore, the training also offered me an opportunity to theoretically explore various potential strategies in dealing with child labour. These strategies range from cash transfers to children’s families (although not considered by many a sustainable intervention) to mobile learning. Now equipped with knowledge of such possible innovative solutions, funds permitting, my union can spearhead the adoption of similar strategies in the country.
Secondly, the training cemented in me the urgency with which the issues of child labour need to be handled. It helped me appreciate that even though ‘withdrawal’ and ‘protection’ are great strategies to tackling the problem, in the long-run we should focus on ‘prevention’. My union TUM has been implementing the SCREAM (Supporting Children’s Rights through Education Arts and Media) pack which is a prevention tool for years in the country. This gives me an opportunity where I will be able to implement what I learnt in the training through the wide spread of the SCREAM pack to other schools in other regions in the country where we haven’t reached yet.
Lastly, the training helped me achieve a broader outlook on the issues of child labour i.e. to include the vulnerable kids including refugees, children from seasonal migrating families, children from internally displaced persons etc. Through the training, I now understand that there is a need to deliberately target and incorporate such children in our action strategies. With the next project in child labour targeting Dowa district in Malawi, home to most refugees found in the country, my union has a great opportunity to include such vulnerable children in our action strategies.
WoE: Back in Malawi, how did you share what you learned in Turin with your colleagues, with TUM members?
Yamikani: The first thing I did when I came back to Malawi was to have a face to face briefing session with my colleagues in the office. We discussed what I’d learnt in the short course and how that knowledge could strengthen our future intervention. Furthermore, I produced a short report which I circulated.
Additionally, in December 2018, we conducted two child labour trainings– one for community leaders, the other for Head teachers and teachers- in one of our project catchment areas. This training was conducted in partnership with ILO Malawi country office. During these trainings, I was able to use skills and share knowledge gained with the union’s membership base. And for the first time, community leaders and teachers worked together to develop child labour action plans for their specific schools which fostered collaboration and a good working relationship between the two groups. Currently, TUM holds them accountable in implementing these action plans by following-up on them from time to time.
Also, in January, TUM hosted two child labour open day events in another one of our project catchment areas. Through these events, we were able to share the knowledge learnt with an average of 1200 people including government officials, traditional leaders, community members, children and most importantly, teachers who form the membership of the union.
In conclusion, the training was a great opportunity for myself and my union. It offered a wonderful learning environment, enriched by the many experiences shared by a diverse group of participants. I learnt a lot throughout the week, both in and out of class, which I believe is helping the union strengthen our interventions. And, I am left optimistic that a world without child labour can be achieved.