"School means success," says Paul, a 54-year-old cocoa farmer from the town of D. in southern Côte d’Ivoire. "I want my children to be successful and so I send them to school."
Doing so has not always been easy for Paul. He has 11 children now. Bringing up such a large family would put a strain on any family’s resources. Yet putting his children through school remains a priority for him. This is because he is literate himself, and he values the opportunities that education can offer his children in the long term.
Yet life in the village is hard. There is a lot of work to do in the fields, and getting children to help out is deeply ingrained in the local culture. Through the Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation System, part of the Nestlé Cocoa Plan, 1640 Community Liaison People (CLP) regularly visit family homes across Côte d’Ivoire, to see if kids are involved in child labor, or at risk of it.
When the CLP last visited Paul’s household, three of the children reported that they had carried heavy loads in the previous six months, an act that qualifies as child labor according to the International Labor Organization (ILO) and Côte d’Ivoire law.
Carrying heavy loads
Of all the dangerous tasks that children perform, carrying heavy loads such as cocoa, wood, water or food is the most common, and can cause real problems for spinal development.
One of the children who reported carrying heavy loads was Paul’s son Ezechiel – a happy little eight-year-old, who loves reading books on his mother’s knee. However, his parents were unable to enroll him in school because he lacked a birth certificate.
This is a common problem in Côte d’Ivoire. The United Nations estimated in 2013 that 2.8 million children in the country do not have birth certificates. Without one, a child can’t take the final primary school exam or enroll in secondary school. Consequently, kids left at home are at much higher risk of child labor.
Providing birth certificates
In this case, Nestlé helped provide Ezechiel with his birth certificate, and he was able to go to one of the village’s five schools. One of these is new, and the company supported its construction to relieve pressure on the others, which were badly overcrowded.
Ezechiel’s headteacher Denis is pleased at the boy’s progress.
“He's a good boy and pays attention in class. Like every child from a poor background, the support he gets at home is limited because his parents don't have a lot of money. But you can see that he really wants to study. He's a nice kid – he's sociable and plays with his friends. With some support, I think he could go quite far in his studies.”
A year after Ezechiel gained his birth certificate, he has not returned to child labor. Neither has his 16-year-old brother, Ghislain – a brilliant student whose school costs Nestlé helped meet by providing with a school kit. These include items such as a schoolbag, textbooks, pens and pencils, and geometry sets.
To date, these interventions have proven successful – and the family is looking to the future. Paul would love Ghislain to become a teacher, while little Ezechiel himself has big plans: “When I’m big, I want to work in an office so I can buy a car and visit my parents,” he says.
Paul smiles. He doesn’t have any specific hopes for Ezechiel yet. “He’s still little,” he says. “But I hope that he will be successful.”
Read more about Nestlé’s efforts to stop unacceptable child labor in our 2019 Tackling Child Labor report (pdf, 4Mb).