Imagine a classroom full of children. In the first row sits Monica from Uganda, 17 years old, who once was a street vendor and now is a great debater in senior 3. Next to her is Anxhela Ibrahimi, a 15-year-old from Albania who dropped out of school but has returned thanks to her teacher’s efforts. All the way in the back is a shy boy named Dojojaja, who is now 12 and comes from Mali. He used to pull oxen every day and this is his first year in school. Across the room is little Jamal, 14 and from Ethiopia, a former cattle boy who has turned into an active student in the school club. The number of children who were able to start a new life in school is growing every year – thanks to the child labour free zones.
Over the last 3 years, SCL has been implementing the Omar’s Dream project to strengthen and expand child labour free zones in 9 African countries. Child labour free zones (CLFZ) are geographical areas where all children are systematically being withdrawn from labour and (re)integrated into formal, full-time schools. In Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Ghana and Morocco child labour free zones have been established and in Mali, Senegal and Burkina Faso preparations have been made for the implementation of child labour free zones.
The Omars Dream project started in June 2012 and is coming to an end in October 2015. Different strategies have been tested and resulted in applications of using an area based approach towards child labour free zones in varied and diverse contexts. By doing so, thousands of children have been withdrawn from work and (re)integrated into the formal education system. The target of 20,000 girls and boys has been reached and surpassed with at least 7,000 girls and boys. However many more children as well as adults have benefited from the project interventions, for example through awareness raising, school environment improvement, adult literacy programmes, adult Income Generating Activities (IGA) and savings activities, lobby & advocacy on community, District and National level, among others.
The experiences and lessons learned over this period of time have resulted in a handbook.