Child labor in Ecuador and Panama is prominent in the most vulnerable and socially excluded sectors: indigenous and Afro-descendant populations. These two populations account for a high incidence of poverty, social exclusion, employment and lack of education, which also explains why they are most at risk of child labor. The numbers are stark:
- In Panama, one in every two Afro-descendants between the ages of 5-39 did not/do not go to school.
- In Ecuador, less than one in every four indigenous students completes secondary school. (1)
Partners of the Americas is changing this narrative. EducaFuturo, our signature anti-child labor program, uses education as a means to reduce and eliminate child labor in Panama and Ecuador, especially among marginalized Afro-descendants, indigenous and migrant populations. Partners works with very knowledgeable local organizations, and Ecuadorian and Panamanian teachers, providing them with new teaching methodologies.
We're improving educational opportunities for children, providing vocational training to youth, promoting livelihoods for households, strengthening public-private partnerships within the business sector, and raising overall awareness about the incidence of child labor. By involving children, their families, communities, teachers as well as the local government, private sector, civil society organizations and schools, we’re engaging the necessary stakeholders to ensure our results are sustainable.
Our award-winning after-school program, Espacios Para Crecer (EpC), makes learning fresh, applicable, and practical for children who have have dropped out of school or attend irregularly. Our dedicated teachers use proven learning methodologies to help children develop self image, identity and help them dream about who and what they can become; ingredients essential to learning.
In the past 10 months, 2,274 children enrolled in Espacios para Crecer!
Experience has demonstrated that the impact of our model goes far beyond the original goals. In the Dominican Republic, children, parents, and teachers saw the joy of learning overflowing from the EpCs. In Colombia, children demonstrated significant changes in personal development and scholastic achievement as they recognized the importance of education as well as their own talents and potential. Currently, in Ecuador and Panama, we are targeting over 3,940 children, 1,290 teens, and 1,600 households.
School officials and teachers in Panama and Ecuador have already noted an improvement in the children’s in academic performance, behavior and attitude. Even better, retention rates are up.
This project is generously supported by the United States Department of Labor.
(1) - Office of Education and Culture Executive Secretariat for Integral Development, Mapping of Public Policy for the "Education of Migrant Children and Youth" Project, 2009.