Non-formal education (NFE) is crucial in smoothing the transition from work to school for child labourers who are not ready or able to make the move straight from the workplace to formal school. NFE programmes that combine basic education with practical life and work skills are responsive to the needs of former child labourers, enabling them to re-enter the labour market later and in better jobs.
NFE is not an alternative to the state-run formal education system, but rather a stepping stone to mainstreaming children into formal schools as and when they are ready. IPEC’s non-formal or transitional education programmes have enabled former child workers to “catch up” with their peers who began their schooling at the appropriate age. In addition, IPEC reinforces the point that there should always be a strong link between such rehabilitation programmes and the formal education system, since basic education is key over the long term.
For this reason, forging close links between interventions with the aim of rehabilitating existing child labourers and interventions with the aim of preventing children from being drawn into child labour is central to IPEC’s education strategy. For former child labourers who have missed out on formal schooling, broader forms of vocational training that provide basic education, life skills (including job seeking and work habits) and a range of transferable skills, rather than a single skill, may be the most effective.