Spotlight on Dos Generaciones, NicaraguaIn Nicaragua 800,000 children – 32% of school-age children – are excluded from the educational system. Although the Government of Nicaragua has national plans regarding child labor and education, there are no targets or specific goals in their official documents, and budget allocations are insufficient. Policy work is needed. In the meantime some communities are organizing themselves, with the help of NGOs, to find alternative and interim ways of handling the problems of child labor and inadequate education. The NGO Dos Generaciones, Winrock's local CIRCLE partner, carried out a survey – the first of its kind in the target area – to map education and child labor in the west part of the Acahualinca neighborhood (16,000 inhabitants) and at the Los Martínez site in Managua. The municipal garbage dump in this neighborhood provides work for 700 children and adolescents: over 300 of these youths also live at the site. The purpose of Dos Generaciones' survey was to get clear data on the scope of the problem and to create a basis on which to form advocacy strategies at local and national levels.
Dos Generaciones' allies among the community leaders spoke to people about the relevance and importance of the survey, dispelling their reservations and making it clear that there would be no monetary compensation for participating in the survey. In most cases people trusted the NGO and the survey team and were convinced to participate. The survey collected information about the child labor rate, the ages and hours of child workers, and school levels and attendance. It also investigated the reasons behind low attendance and high rates of work. The survey revealed that 3 out of every 10 children in the target region work, and that 25-30% do not attend school at all. The average age of child workers is between 7-12 years old, and 3 out of 5 are female.
Through its data collection survey, Dos Generaciones has made an important contribution to the national data on the number, safety, and educational status of child laborers in Nicaragua. They have been invited to participate in meetings with the Ministry of Education and the National Education Forum, and were consulted in the design of a nationwide pilot project that offers educational alternatives to adolescent child laborers. In these and other ways, Dos Generaciones has increased its ability to improve the lives and futures of its beneficiaries.
The NGO prepared a summary of the survey results and presented it to representatives of the communities, the teachers from the four participating schools, and the local authorities. Next it will develop public awareness messages that specifically relate to the survey results and will facilitate community discussions, and dissemination of flyers, posters, and T-shirts. Dos Generaciones is also working to use the results in an advocacy campaign to affect education policies and funding in Nicaragua.
An "extra" result of the survey was to strengthen the position of the interviewers as community references. These volunteers have since become community confidantes, and people come to them with information, questions, and concerns about child labor. The volunteers are able to work with Dos Generaciones to incorporate the communities' voices into their work against child labor.