THE revelation that the Ministry of Employment has received 188 cases of child labour over the past five years will no doubt attract interest.
Opening a child labour workshop in Labasa yesterday, Minister for Employment Jone Usamate said quick response by his team resolved the cases.
Children, he revealed, were then referred to schools "to undergo training in vocational and technical programs".
This year, he said, they had received "only five cases of child labour so far" which they had resolved through the labour inspection process.
The figure for this year may not receive as much attention as the overall stats, however, the question is how many children are still working below the radar, if there are any?
How many are still out there unreported?
The minister suggests there are other cases "out there that we need to track down and address".
"I know this from what I see in the areas that I live in. I am sure that all of you can say the same thing. This must be addressed and we must not turn a blind eye to these things," he said.
As part of the process to fight child labour, his team has started labour inspections, and created awareness programs for employers.
From January this year, it has had 3151 labour inspections Fiji-wide, ensuring there was greater compliance to the Employment Relations Promulgation 2007 and the wages regulations.
There is a positive commitment to putting an end to child labour which is important.
Some of us fail to see that working children are deprived of their childhood, delayed entering school for obvious reasons and often failed to complete basic education.
They are serious issues that restrict the ability of a child to advance in life and to develop at a critical time in the human life cycle.
The emphasis on fighting child labour should motivate parents and guardians to embrace the initiative and do the right thing.
It is unfortunate that some families find themselves in a situation where children are forced to work.
To a large extent, this has the potential to create a vicious cycle of limited opportunities, poverty and inequality. In the long term, the community and eventually the nation, suffers in capacity development.
There are complex issues to contend with. There are factors that will influence children to work.
Could poverty be a key element in how this cycle evolves then?
The challenge is to find ways and means to fight child labour. The State has set the perfect platform for us to reach out and make a difference through various initiatives, especially through education.
Let's put an end to the denial of quality education for such children and offer them an opportunity to escape the cycle of poverty. Let's be part of the solution.