In Haiti, like in many other developing countries, a formal education is highly valued. However, 61% of children between the ages of five and 17 are not educated or under-educated. This includes 37% who are enrolled in school but have fallen behind, 18% who never enrolled, and 6% who are dropouts. The prevalence of child domestic laborers or restaveks has contributed to these statistics as child domestic workers generally have a low enrollment rate. A restavek refers to a child who is sent to work as a domestic servant for another household. The demand for and necessary supply of child domestic labor clashes with this ideal. In Haiti, child domestic workers account for 8.2% of the population aged 5 to 17 years. For the purposes of this write-up, the description of a child domestic worker/restavek includes parent-child separation, a heavy workload, and a lack of or delay in education. This blog focuses on the impact of child domestic labor on education.
Legally speaking, Haiti’s 1984 Labour Law prohibits the use of children under 12 years for domestic work. It also states that child domestic workers 12 years and older must be enrolled in school or professional training, and should not work during school hours. Regulations stipulate that education is mandatory for nine years between the ages of six and 15 years. On an international level, the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of The Child (1989) states that children should not be deprived of an education at the expense of work, and countries should specify a minimum age for employment admission. Convention 138 (C138) (1973) of the International Labour Organization (ILO) sets 14 years as the minimum age for admission to employment in developing countries. Additionally, ILO C182 (1999) defines a child as anyone under 18 years of age with regards to the ‘Worst Forms of Child Labour”. Haiti ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of The Child in 1995, but is yet to ratify ILO C138.