The first step to ensure that child labour in tobacco growing could be successfully tackled was to set in place the systems and frameworks required to do so.
At the very start of the project, all staff were given appropriate and comprehensive training to facilitate project activities. Following this, and as part of the community mapping exercise and consultation with local leaders, parents, community figures, potential mobilisers, selected families and other stakeholders were identified to help implement the action plan.
Seminars for district leaders were held which scrutinized all activities involved in tobacco farming and determined those that are acceptable for children to engage in. Following this, local sub-county chiefs, sub-county chairpersons, women leaders and sub-county councillors attended workshops to pass by-laws that would make it unlawful both to send children to tobacco farms during school time and that all parents would be required to send their children to school.
- 35 farmers’ workshops were conducted in Karujubu and Budongo sub-counties, which were attended by 4,149 people.
- Three teachers’ workshops were conducted for 224 primary schools teachers – 91% of those targeted attended.
- For both farmers and teachers, emphasis was placed on both the dangers of child labour and the importance of school as a necessary and viable alternative.
- On top of these measures, 52 youths in and out of school were trained at a special workshop by the District Youth Councillor of Masindi district in collaboration with youth leaders.
- Finally, as a result of eight seminars attended by 125 women and 353 men, 52 child labour committees were created at village, parish and sub-county level, which were instrumental in the registration of children working on tobacco farms and for protecting children over the lifetime of the project.
At the beginning of the project, the newly established child labour committees identified 164 boys and 139 girls of primary school age and referred them to schools. The committees also identified 430 boys and 115 girls for vocational skills training. By the close of the project, 2,091 children of school-going age had been identified for withdrawal and been placed in schools.
A major focus of the project was to ensure that pupils should be given the chance to study to the best of their ability. New scholastic materials – exercise books, pens, pencils and mathematical sets – were regularly issued to over 3,000 pupils. While these had a positive impact on students’ performance, school attendance rates varied considerably over the course of this phase of the project. This variation was largely due to factors well outside the control of the project, such as families returning to their original homes following the end of the civil war, migration caused by ethnic clashes between the indigenous tribes of Masindi and the Congo tribes at the border, and displacement caused by repossession of a farm by a landowner.
Extending vocational training was a significant success of this project. The Kyema Vocational Training Institute, built from scratch by the project and opened in October 2005, enabled boys and girls of school-leaving age to undergo training in key professions. It assists children withdrawn from child labour who do not meet normal entry requirements of technical colleges and do not have the resources to pay full fees.
Before the Kyema Institute was completed, the project had already established a successful apprenticeship system with local employers.
- 24 older children were given scholarships to undergo vocational skills training in sewing, bricklaying, carpentry and joinery, catering, metallurgy and secretarial work.
- Students were issued with a set of tools/equipment for their trade. These tools were issued under a cost recovery scheme through which they agreed to pay back the full cost, between 5,000 and 50,000 Ugandan shillings, payable over a period of 20 months.
- Once opened and fully functioning, the Kyema Institute successfully ran and completed two semesters of training.
- 90 students studied in the first semester. Courses included bricklaying and concreting, carpentry and joinery, tailoring and agriculture. 66 completed their classes of which 44 passed their final exams.
- In the second semester, 101 students were reporting for lectures. 65 students were able to complete their courses and intensive efforts were made to target 300 students for the third intake, Feb-May 2007 (100 for boarding and 200 for the day scholars).
- The drop-out rates for the first two years were attributed to the long distances from homes, lack of money to pay for regular overnight accommodation, and defaulting on fees. All these issues were addressed as ‘lessons learned’ in the second phase of the project.
Awareness-raising about the project was extensive.
- Different radio spots were developed, and were broadcast over the course of the project well over 1,000 times on Masinidi Broadcasting Services (MBS) and Radio Kitara. Messages were broadcast mainly during the peak seasons of planting, harvesting and marketing, and emphasised the dangers of child labour, the importance of sending children to school and the role of child labour committees in ensuring that children stay in school. Later, the radio spots urged parents to send older children to the Kyema Vocational Training Institute.
- Five radio programmes were developed and broadcast that sensitised policy and law makers, farmers and the general public on the plight of children in child labour.
- Four radio drama performances were conducted that was followed by a phone-in from listeners about child labour in tobacco farming.
- Nearly 6,500 coloured posters – in English, Runyoro, Swahili and Luo – and 700 T-shirts, depicted the harmful effects of child labour, laws relating to child labour, the importance and availability of educational opportunities and child rights.
- Films were shown in 10 locations every six months that described the worst forms of child labour and appealed to parents and opinion leaders to send children to school. Vocational skills development was highlighted as an alternative for children who had dropped out of school. Following these screenings, children were asked to distinguish between child work and child labour.
- By the end of this phase of the project, dormitories were almost completed and beds and mattresses were on site to provide for further children going forward.
- The majority of graduates of the project’s school programme succeeded in earning a living from their chosen profession. Some were contracted by the Institute and engaged at commercial rates to construct the agriculture infrastructure, toilets for the boarding section and parts of the kitchen.
- One acre of cassava was planted from cuttings and collected for sale.
- A woodlot of pines was created and 100 trees were planted and a nursery bed of pines for commercial purposes was also laid out.