The International Labour Organization (ILO) last week said that there were huge lacunas in terms of the Government’s provision of necessary resources including material resources and infrastructure for the available human resource to tackle the problem of child labour and child sexual abuse.
Consultant to the ILO Country Office for Sri Lanka, Visakha Tillekeratne said that the situation was highly unacceptable, adding that the Ministry of Labour should proactively conduct raids on places which employ children without being merely reactive by waiting to receive a complaint through a phone call.
“In the areas where there are plantations, the schools which provide for education up to higher grades are situated in towns far away from the plantations, where a one way bus ticket from the plantation to the school, costs Rs 50, and even this the parents of the children cannot afford,” she highlighted.
In schools, early warning signs such as sporadic attendance, absenteeism and poor performance must be captured within the education system and attention must be paid to children exhibiting such, she mentioned.
While at the District Secretariat, the Divisional Secretariat, and the Grama Niladhari level, there are at least five to six different officers per community including in villages with offices, who by their job descriptions are charged with looking into various aspects of vulnerable children, yet not only is there no supervision at these levels but they also do not have the resources like vehicles and fuel to go to the villages, Tillekeratne pointed out.
Grama Niladharis must alert the Divisional Secretariat by giving proper lists containing information and details about children in vulnerable situations, she opined.
Probation officers who go to courts almost every day, travel to courts by bus, she explained, adding that the said officers had no access to computers for purposes of maintaining databases which they have been asked to do and no internet connections.
She pointed out that child labour free zones were being established islandwide and the one in Ratnapura has been going on for four years. She said the challenges include finding the root causes. “These include economic issues such as poverty and elsewhere family fragmentation. There is alcoholism and the lack of care for children. Children either drop out of school or run away,” she added. “There is also a lack of counseling. Parents too must be called in. Children must mandatorily be in school for 16 years. Those under the age of 14 cannot engage in any kind of paid work.”