Since its inception in October 2005 to date, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has rescued 14, 600 youths and children from exploitative labor through its Countering Youth and Child Labor through Education (CYCLE) project in Sierra Leone.
The project which assisted children in accessing locally available education and services needed to withdraw them from engaging in exploitative child labor such as mining, drug trafficking, street trading or prostitution, targeting three districts in Sierra Leone namely Freetown, Kono and Kenema.
Since Tuesday this week, IRC has started a wave of distribution of startup-kits worth over Le100 million to graduands of the Waterloo Rural Districts which comprises of Waterloo, Lumpa, Tombo and Goderich communities.
Giving an overview of the CYCLE project, Project Manager Brima Lamin explained that a survey was done “in our operational communities in Freetown, Kono and Kenema,” where we discovered that there are lots of children engaged in child labor.
He disclosed that this project which caters for children below 18 years started in “October 2005 and it is expected to end on September 29th 2009.”
The Project Manager also revealed that children between the ages of 13 and14 who were unable to acquire formal education, are sent to vocational skills training centre were some have opted to do hair dressing, tailoring, carpentry, auto mechanic, and metal works.
He also explained that these communities have what they call the CWC- Child Welfare Committee, “these CWC are helping us to monitor the progress of these kids,” he said.
Lamin also explained that those who wish to go to school are also supplied with scholastic materials, and those in the vocational area are given skills training materials as well.
“We are expecting the CWC to also monitor those we gave the start-up kits to ensure that they are used well,” he accentuated.
The Project Manager explained that they wish to extend the project but the funding received was for four years and the life of the project is coming to an end.
“If we have funding we will continue but for now we are appreciative of our sponsor- US Department of Labor (USDOL).”
He noted that it is not an easy task to remove such huge amounts of children from the street “this is a real help to the government, and the country as a whole. Some of the children who have gone back to school are doing extremely well,” Lamin disclosed.
He furthered that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed with trainers and after the training graduands were awarded certificates coupled up with the start-up kit.
In her statement during a start-up kit presentation at Lumpa community centre, Waterloo Wednesday, CYCLE national project coordinator, Sia Mamah M’Bayo explained about donor regulations and challenges faced during the course of the project and appealed to parents to be responsible and transparent “this is a project and whatever we do we have to account for,” she explained.
She also explained that graduands are expected to stay with the trainers for six months after receiving the kit. During these six months trainers are expected to guide the graduands on the art of their trade.
The project coordinator cautioned trainers to know that the equipment belongs to the graduands and not the trainers, also adding that the equipment which are distributed according to groups does not belong to any one individual but the group.
The project coordinators said “we do not want you to expect what we can not deliver”
The Lumpa village head on behalf of his community expressed his gratitude to IRC. He explained that most family’s value education, but many family’s are not able to keep their children in school due to economic pressures and the significant fees and cost associated with schooling, but with the intervention of IRC this burden can now lessen on families who cannot afford and depend on their children to fend for living.