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2007.03.05
* Child migrant workers miss out on schooling and a safe environment * 13 Feb 2007 For migrant farm workers in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, the work day often begins long before the sun rises. They get up at 5 a.m. and travel on crowded buses from their housing camps to the fields. The boy we'll call Javier Hernandez is just 10 years old, but he's been working seasonally in these fields since he was seven. Today, Javier and a few of the other workers huddle around a fire for warmth until the boss arrives and signals them to start working. Javier will spend the next eight hours picking chilli peppers. For his efforts, he will earn the equivalent of about seven U.S. dollars. "When we get in the field, we start filling our buckets with chilli peppers," he says. "We have to remove the stems with our fingers. The boss assigns us a number to keep track of our progress. When you finish filling a bucket, he asks you what your number is." Once Javier finishes working, he will attend a school run by the agricultural company that employs him and his family. He'll study for two or three hours before returning to camp to reunite with his family and get some sleep before the next work day begins. There are an estimated 300,000 children between the ages of six and 14 who travel to northern Mexico as internal migrants along with their parents, who have been contracted to work in the fields. At about age 10, half of those children begin working, and the number rises sharply over the ensuing four years. Migrant farm workers typically arrive in Sinaloa in September or October and work until early May. Most of them are from the poorest areas in Southern Mexico. Javier's family is from Guerrero State. Only one in ten of the child workers attend school, and even fewer finish a primary education. Not only are most of the children working in the fields deprived of an education, but they also face considerable dangers in the field. This mother is grieving the loss of her nine-year-old son, David Salgado Aranda, who in January was killed by a tractor while he was picking tomatoes. UNICEF believes that protecting children from exploitation is an integral part of protecting their rights to survival. UNICEF also strongly believes that every child deserves a quality education. UNICEF Protection Officer Theresa Kilbane says the good news is there are many examples where, at the local level, people have successfully come together with government programs, with the farm owners and the local society, to provide a safe and secure educational and protection environment for many children. She says, "UNICEF's focus is to advocate for quality public education for all children, to improve the conditions the children are studying in, and to do this through the existing efforts. We know what needs to be done. The issue now is to significantly expand the coverage to reach all children, and that is where the challenge lies for the government, the private sector and the civil societ
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