SPES brings hope to child laborers

Rejane, Edryanna and Kyian Mar perform their duties in the different government offices they are working with.

Rejane. Edryanna. Kyian Mar.

Each had their own stories of hardships and misfortunes. These children have known poverty and hunger at an early age and they have learned to live with it for a very long time.

They felt hopeless and powerless for some time, but the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) gave them the chance to experience working in a safe and healthy environment through the Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES). The feeling of concern for their future renewed their enthusiasm in pursuing their dreams.

Raised in a poor household and determined to fulfill her dream of becoming an agriculturist, now 17-year-old Rejane started working as a corn harvester when she was just 13 years old. She worked from 6 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon under the grueling heat of the sun for a three hundred pesos (Php300.00) daily wage.

Gapasalamat gid ako kay naka experience ako mag ubra sa isa ka government agency, nasadyahan ako nga labi sa pag uyat sang binangon, makasarang man gali ako mag ubra gamit ang ballpen, papel, kag computer. (I am so thankful that I have experienced working in a government agency. I am happy that through SPES I realized that I can also work with ballpen, paper and computer and not only with bolo,” said Rejane who is working with Department of Trade and Industry-Negosyo Center.

At an early age, Edryanna also worked as a corn harvester and a tutor because her father’s income as a farmer is not enough to support her education. She has high hopes of graduating from college so she could help her family get out of poverty.

The experience she gained from the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSWDO)-Kalahi Office taught her self-discipline. She is grateful because through SPES, she was able to gain additional knowledge and skills.

Kyian Mar started working odd jobs since he was 13 years old in order to make both ends meet. He also used to work as a corn bagger and harvester that earned him Php10 per sack.

“Kabudlay kung wala pirme kwarta, pirme man wala pagkaon (It is hard if you don’t have money, you don’t also have food,” Kyian sighed.

Rejane, Edryanna and Kyian Mar were among the 478 profiled child laborers in the municipalities of Ajuy and Sara, Iloilo. Out of these number, 99 and 13 were identified as child laborers in Ajuy and Sara, respectively.

To provide inspiration and to make them feel they are cared for, DOLE-6 in partnership with the local government units of Sara and Ajuy hired profiled child laborers as beneficiaries of the Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES).

This is one of DOLEs programs that provides them with working opportunities and additional income during summer vacation.

The SPES babies were employed for a period of 20 days starting July 3 to August 1, 2023 for the beneficiaries from Sara; and from July 20 – August 17, 2023 for those from Ajuy.

It was through SPES that Kyian learned the basics of using the computer and other ideas while working with the personnel of the Bureau of Fire Protection. He is saving his wages for the upcoming school year as he is planning to pursue college and take up Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management. He will also use some of his earnings to buy pants and shoes for himself.

“Providing this opportunity is part of our efforts to address the worst forms of child labor and achieve a child-labor-free Philippines,” said Regional Director Atty. Sixto T. Rodriguez, Jr. “It needs our joint effort to keep these children away from undesirable working conditions and lead them back to school,” said Atty. Rodriguez as he put emphasis to the participation of the local government units and other government agencies in the implementation of Child Labor Prevention and Elimination Program (CLPEP).

Apart from SPES, CLPEP also consistently conducts profiling of child laborers and providing services to remove them from child labor through programs such as Sagip Batang Manggagawa, Livelihood Assistance to Parents of Child Laborers, Project Angel Tree, Issuance of Working Child Permit, and advocacies against child labor.