We are often asked why we cannot achieve more progress, faster. There are many challenges in tackling child labor. Some are related our CLMRS itself, but there are other factors too. One factor is that all cases are individual and need to be treated as such. Older children are harder to help - this is the story of Raoul, who was offered vocational training but continues to do hazardous work in cocoa cultivation.
It can’t have been an easy thing to explain to his father. But Raoul had decided to drop out of his carpentry apprenticeship. The 16-year-old is one of the 11 siblings and two wives that cocoa farmer Paul Djama Kouadjo supports by cocoa farming. Money is tight at home. Carpentry would have been a solid career – a trade that could have helped ease the family’s financial situation. It would also have helped keep Raoul away from doing hazardous work.
When our local Community Liaison Person visited his home, Raoul admitted to having first carried heavy loads along with his two brothers Ezechiel and Ghislain (read their story here: https://www.nestlecocoaplan.com/article-child-labor-report-1)
While keeping his brothers away from undertaking hazardous tasks proved fairly straightforward, Raoul’s case was more difficult. He has seen enough of school to know that he doesn’t mind math but hates French. He also knows, like many teenagers his age, that further study isn’t for him. Unlike his brother Ghislain, he struggled academically, and he wants to get out and start earning. “I like working”, he explained.
Finding alternatives to traditional education
Compulsory education lasts until 15 in the Côte d’Ivoire. It is much more difficult to stop children at this kind of age from doing hazardous work. Culturally, if not legally, they are already considered adults to a large degree. They are expected to contribute to the family – as they are in many other parts of the world. Yet they are still not legally allowed to undertake many of the core tasks required in cocoa agriculture. So it makes sense to attempt to find alternatives, such as vocational training.
This is what we tried to do for Raoul. Mathilde Koua N’Godo Sokoty, the Nestlé Cocoa Plan’s Human Rights Manager for Côte d’Ivoire, explains, “since he wasn’t going to school, we spoke to him and his father to see if he would like to learn a trade. He decided he wanted to try carpentry." “It wasn’t easy to organize,” Mathilde continued. We had to identify a master carpenter who would take him on and guide his learning. We had to be sure that once he had been trained, he would be able to set up his business. In addition, we had to provide him with all the tools he needed to learn the trade in the meantime. It’s not easy to organize this kind of thing in a rural area. It’s quite a complex and relatively expensive process for an individual intervention.” For a while, it looked as though things were going well for Raoul.
But then suddenly, he dropped out. His father Paul was furious. “He was misguided by his friends and decided to quit carpentry. I had already signed all the papers to enroll him, so that disappointed me. He asked to go back to school, I let him and then he failed the year. I asked him if he wanted to continue and said he has now decided that he wants to become a mechanic. He should have picked that from the start rather than saying he wanted to be a carpenter.”
“Life is hard here,” Paul continued. “I don’t have enough money to send him on a mechanics course – it’s expensive. So that is the problem I’ve got at the moment.” His frustration is fueled by concerns that would be recognized by parents everywhere. “Some kids are left to roam the streets,” he says. “That can lead
“Things don’t always work out. It really shows how complex remediation is” - Mathilde Koua N'Godo Sokoty, Nestlé Cocoa Plan Human Rights Manager, Côte d'Ivoire
them into trouble, which only comes back to bite the family. So, I want my children to get jobs.” Yet Raoul isn’t a bad kid. He just changed his mind about what he wanted to do with his life, in the same way that many of us have. The father and son tension this created is probably familiar for a lot of people. But during all this upheaval Raoul began helping out at home, and ended up carrying heavy loads again.
The complexity of remediation
“For the other brothers in this family the remediation we put in place worked well. They have continued going to school and have had very good results,” says Mathilde. “Raoul, on the other hand, has had a more difficult time.
That shows that even within the same family and even with a much more expensive form of remediation, things don’t always work out. It really shows how complex remediation is. We have more than 18,000 cases to deal with. Each is unique. Each is specific. And that is the scale of the challenge we are facing.” Raoul’s father Paul sighs deeply. “If he really, genuinely wants to become a mechanic, then that is what I want for him too. I hope he succeeds.” Raoul is shy but thoughtful. “In life, you have to do what your heart tells you,” he says. "That’s the best way to succeed.”