Spotlight on BASE:
Eradication of Child Labor through Child Clubs and Alternate Education
September 2005. The high incidence of child labor in Nepal is a matter of serious concern. Dalit children, Freed-Kamaiyas (freed bonded laborers who still face much social discrimination, with some still bonded despite legal provisions), and marginalized communities in mid- and far-western areas of Nepal are the worst. Most of these children have work in hotels, shops or as domestic servants in urban households. The conflict in Nepal has lead to an increase in school drop-outs and internal and external displacement, further exacerbating this problem.

Backward Society Education (BASE) is a Winrock CIRCLE partner working with Freed-Kamaiyas in Nepal. The project focuses on reducing the number of child laborers and securing the fundamental rights of children through education, awareness generation, and vocational skill development.

In May 2005, BASE undertook a survey on the status of child labor in Dang, Banke and Salyan Districts. Following the survey, the organization started Alternate Education Centers (AEC) for child laborers between 6-14 years who were unable to attend government schools. AECs are designed to offer non-formal instruction using flexible schedules so as to accommodate children working on a part-time or seasonal basis while preparing them for enrollment in formal schools. By utilizing government curriculum, leveraging the support of District Education Offices for the training of teachers and facilitators, working with local communities on school improvement plans, providing scholarships and channeling to up to 90 children who complete non-formal classes into government schools, BASE is able to ensure that many of these students go on to formal school enrollment. BASE is committed to transitioning as many children as possible into formal education so as to strengthen their ability to break the cycle of child labor.

The AECs enrolled 77 students for a period of one year. In addition, BASE provided aid to 200 children enrolled in government schools. These children were offered direct assistance, providing fees, stationery, school uniforms and bags. Recipients were selected from different target sectors, 30% of whom work in hotels, 20% in domestic service and 50 % at-risk due to conflict. BASE also has established an Emergency Fund for Children to help needy children continue their education. The following chart shows the academic results for some of the project's beneficiaries:

S.N Location of center Status of participants
Enrolled in AEC Appeared in exam Can enroll into formal school.
M F Total M F Total M F Total
1. Khalanga Bazar, Salyan 8 17 25 8 12 20 7 11 18
2. Shrinagar Bazar, Salyan 9 18 27 9 17 26 9 15 24
3. Nepalgunj13, Bhrikutinagar, Banke 2 23 25 2 17 19 2 16 18
Total 19 58 77 19 46 65 18 42 60
In addition to AEC activities, BASE Social Mobilizers have convinced employers and parents to provide leisure time for child laborers to create clubs. BASE has set up 3 clubs for children working in the hotel and domestic service area. The club meetings generate awareness among the children on their fundamental rights, exploitation at work, critical thinking techniques, and job and life-planning techniques. BASE staff monitor these meetings and provide insight and guidance.

The clubs have also proven to be effective recreational gathering places. For instance, children working in Nepalgunj spend around 2 hours a day there learning about art, music, and sports. 66 children in Banke district are regularly attending their clubs.

The enrollment rate of children in schools in the BASE project districts has increased by 48% this year. The enrollment of child labors went from 206 last year to 499 students, according to a recent report. Working children are participating in awareness campaigns using posters, giving speeches and meetings through their child clubs.

BASE maintains good coordination with local stakeholders, including the Nepali government, which should help the program's sustainability. During the CIRCLE project period, BASE has organized the children, their parents, and enough members of the community to strongly believe that they will make the area free from child labor.