‘Arf arf arf’ goes the stray dogs amidst the stillness of early dawn as a group of people starts filling up a 4-wheel vehicle…and as darkness engulfs the daylight, the weary face of same people disembarking, is a regular scene in this community with around 22,918* residents.

From a brood of ten (10), Maimuna is the 4th child of Nurkie and Mariam Hamsi. Growing up in a one-room-affair house is not exactly what one can consider a comfortable dwelling. Left with just one parent to take care of the family, at such a vulnerable age, Maimuna took it upon herself to help her mother augment the family’s income.

Hardly able to enjoy the bare necessities for survival, her frail body had to endure standing for long hours, thirteen (13) the most, working in one of the manufacturing companies in Zamboanga City.

Towards a child-labor free Philippines, Maimuna, the frail 16 year-old factory worker profiled in 2021 candidly narrated the struggle in overcoming challenges…from having to get up earlier than sun-up to staying awake to keep herself up six (6) days a week. In addition, “Mahirap at nakakapagod po pero ok lng po kasi kailangan (It’s difficult and tiring but it’s fine because it’s necessary.)…”

This grade 9 child laborer (CL) further added that the COVID 19 pandemic practically afforded her to work since classes were done online.

Getting paid (less than the minimum wage requirement) after a week’s work, her earnings were spent on food for the family, her school and some personal needs.

DOLE In The Picture

Acting on the information at hand, the Quick Response Team (QRT) composed of personnel from the Regional and Zamboanga City Field Office conducted site validation. With due consideration on the documented information as presented by the HR Head, the Team deduced that no further action be meted on the company. Nevertheless, without much delay, the Team, together with the authorized representative of the Company, Maimuna was turned-over to the family and the BLGU of Barangay Sinunuc and the BCPC for counselling. The mother too was assessed for possible livelihood assistance and presently with an approved Kabuhayan Starter Kit (KSK) under the DOLE Integrated Livelihood Program (DILP).

With the heart to continue her studies amidst hardship, and the dream to earn a degree kept this former CL focused, now a Grade 11 student regularly attending school. With the support of her mother who at the same time is enrolled in DepEd’s ALS, Maimuna welcomed the opportunity to earn under the Special Program for Employment of Students (SPES).**

This teenager beneficiary beaming with pride, happily relayed that with the wage from SPES, she finally got herself a cellphone, school uniform, some school supplies for herself and her siblings and the rest turned over to her mother. Mariam committed “Aware po ako na hindi dapat ipatrabaho ang mga minors. Lesson po sa akin ang nangyari kay Maimuna…(I am aware that we are not supposed to send minors to work. What happened to Maimuna is a lesson for me.)”

“Ma’am puede ba ako mag-SPES ulit next year? Malaking tulong po sa school kasi ang nakukuha kong sweldo. (Maam, may I be enrolled in SPES again next year? The wage I get is a huge help.) ”.

With word from an employer who regularly participates in the SPES, Maimuna is assured of a slot for the 2023 implementation.

SPES is DOLE’s youth employment-bridging program which aims to provide temporary employment to poor but deserving students, out-of-school youth, and dependents of displaced or would-be displaced workers during summer and/or Christmas vacation or any time of the year to augment the family’s income to help ensure that beneficiaries are able to pursue their education. END/Ma. Eloina S. Idris (EDT/kcqg)