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The Faces of Hunger

Real Stories



Education for minors working with firecrackers

© UNICEF/Gua2005
Esdras helps his mom make firecrackers during his free time or during school vacation.

In the village Realhuit of San Juan Sacatepéquez - about 40 kilometres away from the capital city -the production of firecrackers is a daily activity-. Most households work part or full time in this activity. The home of Esdras, a shy boy, is no exception.

His mother, Catalina Canel, prepares the paper tubes or “hechuras” that will give shape to the firecrackers, along with other pieces. “We use old newspapers for making the tubes.  As soon as they are ready the producer picks them up.”, says Catalina, as she continues to soak the pieces of paper in a mixture of water, lime and manioc before wrapping them around a metal stick to create the cylindrical shape.

Esdras, his siblings and all the other children in the community are familiar with the whole procedure.  He says: “I can do it” but his efforts are mainly concentrated in his studies.  “Sometimes they help out or during school vacation but … school comes first”, remarks Catalina.
The situation is not so simple at other households. Parents are less willing to send their children to school.  They force them to dedicate most of their time in the pyrotechnic production to increase the household income.

© UNICEF/Gua2005
Various initiatives seek to facilitate children´s access to school through the promotion of incentives for parents: awareness, free enrolment, and expansion of recreational activities, along with improved school infrastructure.

How can child labour be eradicated and education prioritised?

Esdras finished his second grade in Escuela Oficial Rural Mixta Realhuit. He says, “My dream is to become a doctor”. To attain his dream, this nine-year old child knows that he has to study hard and go through secondary school and thereafter to college.

He enjoys being in school which is part of the OIT/IPEC programme – International Labour Organisation / International Programme for the Eradication of Child Labour. This initiative has been implemented in Guatemala since 2001.  The Ministry of Education provides Q300 for each child as an annual scholarship.

The schools received financial assistance in 2001, 2002 and 2003, which went to a common fund for collective benefit and not directly to the students. Derived from this initiative, the second floor was built and lavatories were set-up.  “We had summer school last year”, Esdras recalls.

Miriam de Celada, the person responsible for the OIT/IPEC programme, explains that the idea is to attract children to school through different initiatives: incentives for parents, general awareness, free enrolment, expansion of recreational activities and/or school infrastructure improvement.”

“We want to receive continuous support because it benefits children. It has actually improved the school and what it has to offer for children.  They are happier to attend school”, indicates Catalina. Esdras, not a loquacious child, nods in approval.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) promotes at national and municipal level scholarships for low-income families.

During the weeks before Christmas, coinciding with the firecracker demand and thereby production, Esdras plays with his siblings and sometimes helps in the preparation of paper tubes. However, the little boy remembers his dream to become a doctor and what it entails: “hard study”.



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