Combating Child Labor through DESTINO

In Panama, many children from poor and indigenous families work to supplement family income. Despite national laws supporting universal primary education and a minimum age for employment, more than 14 percent of children are either working or engaged in some combination of work and school. Many of these children work in dangerous settings in agriculture or jobs on the streets in urban where they are vulnerable to weather, exploitation and crime.

To help combat child labor and ensure these children have access to education, Creative implemented the DESTINO, which stands for Disminuyendo y Erradicando el Trabajo Infantil para Nuevas Oportunidades. This project was funded by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The DESTINO project worked on several fronts including: a national awareness-raising campaign about the negative consequences of child labor; supporting indigenous communities’ eco-tourist activities to generate income; establishing nine farm schools to educate the children of seasonal laborers and providing support for 30 tutorials and seven accelerated learning elementary schools. These accelerated learning schools supported working children who had dropped out of school to achieve a primary education.

Through community education centers, DESTINO also supported working children who attend primary school to stay in school and achieve academic success. The centers offered academic reinforcement, nutritional support, school uniforms and school supplies to children at risk of leaving school for work or those already working. This assistance encouraged low-income families to keep their children in school and, in some cases, to choose not to migrate for seasonal farm work and remove their children from these education supports.

The project resulted in 1,844 children being withdraw from work or prevented from working and established innovative models to meet the unique educational needs of child laborers.

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