By Kurt Campbell
Underscoring the prevalence of child labour in Guyana’s rural and hinterland areas, Minister of Labour, Joseph Hamilton, on Friday outlined a plan to both remove children found in these situations and then offer them an alternative linked to skills training.
Hamilton was delivering the feature address during the launch of Child Labour Month in observance of World Day Against Child Labour on June 12, 2021.
He was joined by Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr Vindyha Persaud, who along with the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Charles Ramson Jr, are currently designing a government response to the issue.
“We must have a national plan,” Hamilton asserted.
Hamilton said while some persons might want to say that child labour does not exist in Guyana, he personally came into contact with it, staring him in the face, on a coconut farm in the Pomeroon River.
He said while there are things that the Ministry of Labour could do and have done, “it dawned on me, and I mentioned that to the head of UNICEF, because when we remove the 15-year-old from the coconut plantation, what do we do with him? That’s the fundamental question we have to answer because that 14 or 15- year- old might be the breadwinner of the family.”
The Labour Minister said it is against this backdrop that a collaborative approach has become necessary “to hold rescued children and to steer them, him or her, into some area of learning some skills training, if not then [rescuing that child] becomes a wasted exercise that we will have to repeat over and over and over again.”
He said his ministry is willing, able and ready to utilise the Board of Industrial Training to aid the situation. Nonetheless, he says more is needed.
“… to take it to another level. How do we actually immediately pilot this young boy or young girl, that we have taken out of work-related activities? How do we get them into an area of training and skills development? And that is what we have to fashion. If we don’t do that. This exercise… would have failed in the purposes,” Hamilton added.
It is for this reason that Hamilton believes government ministries and agencies cannot work in silos.
He said himself, Minister Persaud and Minster Ramson Jr., have already caucus to discuss the matter.
“… how together we can action some of these things we talk about. I think the failure in the state is that everybody is in their own little corner, doing their own little thing, thinking they are doing big things but the output, at the end of the day, we don’t get it, because there’s not a collaborative and cooperative effort going forward and that is the fundamental question answer,” he added.
Hamilton was joined in his charge by Ministerial Advisor and Chairperson of the Ministry of Labour Child Labour Committee, Gillian Burton-Persaud.
Burton-Persaud said the theme for the observance: “Act Now, End Child Labour” was fitting in light of the increase in this social ill due to the COVID 19 pandemic.
It is for this reason that the resuscitation of the National Child Labour Committee has become necessary.
She said the Committee cannot work on its own and will require the support for the Trafficking in Persons Task Force and other agencies to ensure that the children of Guyana enjoy their children and are not forced to work.
“We want their small days, in a good way, to always be on their mind.”