Costa Rica News – A private school in Belen, Heredia is being accused of violating child labor laws, by making some students work to fund their education. The school in question is Colegio Cristiano Bilingue La Palabra de Vida, in San Antonio de Belen.
The issue is about a scholarship program that was intended to provide grants of 30% and up to needy families, so that the poor children could have access to a quality education. Those students who receive this grant are required to spend ten hours a month at the school, outside of classroom hours. They arrange desks, collect trash, rake leaves, or do other tasks related to the common interest.
The school has 305 students, 50 of whom are receiving this subsidized education. The monthly cost is between 170,000 and 270,000 colones, depending on the age of the student. The students feel bad that they have to stay while their peers go home to play.
The school’s principal says that no one is required to accept the grant. Anyone who does must meet the requirements that go along with it, including these community service hours and maintaining good behavior and grades. The school tries to teach life lessons, including instilling values of community service. The relatives of the students on scholarships say this isolates their children. “Why don’t all the kids have to serve the community,” they ask. It doesn’t make sense that only those from poor families should be taught the value of service.
Another issue of injustice is that the children are, in a way, working to receive money towards their education. This violates child labor rights. Children can not be doing work in exchange for payment or exoneration of payment. This gets even more tricky in the case of students under the age of 15.
The government’s Ministry of Education and PANI, the organization that protects children, are now involved in the case and investigating the questioned scholarship and issue of children working.
I am honestly torn when when it comes to to this school scholarship program that is under investigation When I was in San Jose I would see on pretty much a daily basis parents that have their children working street corners with them trying to sell various items to passersby. I never see PANI coming to talk to those parents although it may happen from time to time.
Getting a good education is of the utmost importance in both Costa Rica and the world. In Costa Rica in order to get a good education I hate to say it but most public schools are very much lacking in providing this to its students. This program gives the children the possibility of getting that education. This will be so important to those poor students later in life.
It is not like they are running a sweatshop and making these kids make shoes or making them work 10 hour days. We are talking about 2.5 hours a week and teaching them about community service while allowing them access to an education they could in no other way be able to afford.
What are your thoughts?