Prevention through education is one of the founding principles on which DEPDC/GMS builds its many programs. The Half Day School (HDS) is certainly one that effectively incorporates many prevention strategies against human trafficking and child exploitation into its after-school program.
Given the fact that over 95% of the students at the school are either migrant children or stateless children from nearby hill tribes and all living in varying levels of poverty, a program that targets such an at-risk group is of particular relevance and importance.
In October, the school put on a workshop to raise awareness of human trafficking among the students. Given the serious nature of the subjects, only children aged 11 and above were in attendance. The teachers at HDS worked hard to put together a comprehensive presentation to cover a variety of topics related to human trafficking: from the basics like “What Is Human Trafficking?” and “What Are the Risk Factors?”, to more sensitive topics such as the many unfortunate forms of human trafficking (including domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, organ theft, and children used as drug couriers) and the challenges facing trafficked victims (including lack of access to and trust in authority, lack of contact to parents or other reliable guardians, and physical, sexual and mental abuse by traffickers). The teachers did not shy away from the hard questions or the unsavory nature of the subject. “The children at the Half Day School are those at the greatest risk of exploitation, and among the first things we want them to be aware of when they are admitted to the school are the many social issues surrounding their situation,” explains Alinda Suya, Director of Education and Directing Team Executive of DEPDC/GMS.
Following the review, presenters moved on to the most important part of the workshop – what students can do to actively decrease their risks of falling victim to traffickers. For example, because it will not be uncommon for many of these students to receive offers of contract to work in other provinces and far-away places, the staff emphasized the importance of doing in-depth research of the company and the location in advance before signing any contract, of maintaining close contacts with people who could help in case of emergency, and of always carrying copies of valid identification documents. This is a particular crucial but often overlooked piece of advice that can lead to earlier rescue of trafficked victims who often have their documents confiscated by their traffickers.
For those aged 10 and below, the school provided a more age-appropriate workshop to emphasize a healthy, wholesome child life and its importance for well-rounded personal development. Through many fun but poignant skits put on by the staff and teachers at the school, the younger students learned about important life lessons like good work ethics, the importance of personal hygiene and good health, the value of family life and respect for one another, and finally, the lasting impact of education on leading a productive and secure life.
The workshops are part of a series of approximately 13 annual workshops that the Half Day School organizes every year to touch on the many complicated social issues relevant to the Golden Triangle region, an area that has traditionally been made more vibrant – and problematic – by its close relationships with Laos and Myanmar (Burma). We cheer the HDS teachers for their dedication to help better their students’ future through these important workshops.
Looking at the children’s undivided attention during the presentations, we hope they have gained the knowledge that will benefit them and their families for a long time to come!