CMU to offer sugar farm technician course as deterrent vs child labor

MUSUAN, Maramag, Bukidnon (MindaNews/26 April) – The Central Mindanao University will be offering a sugarcane technician course by June this year to help boost the fight against child labor in Bukidnon’s sugar industry, the biggest employer in the province.

On Tuesday, Dr. Luz Soriano, dean of the CMU College of Agriculture, presented to the sugarcane farm owners the proposed curriculum for the Associate in Sugarcane Production and Management Course.

The 39-unit course will expose students to the technical, social and economic aspects of sugarcane production and management based, among others, on actual demonstrations in the field, and can be finished in four regular semesters and one summer term.

Soriano said applicants to the non-degree course should be preferably sons and daughters of sugarcane workers.

She said the International Labor Organization – IPEC (International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labor) has asked the university to create the course as part of the education intervention for working children with support from the Sugar Industry Foundation, Inc. (SIFI).

Bukidnon is one of four provinces in the country where ILO is implementing the IPEC program.

The course rationale cited child labor as one of the social problems plaguing the country. The Philippine government, it added, demonstrated its commitment to eliminate the problem by developing the Philippine Program against Child Labor.

The program aims to reduce child labor by 75 percent in 2015, with the passage of Republic Act 9231 as among the measures.

“One sector that has always been part of the priority focus of programs designed to eradicate child labor is the sugar plantation,” CMU added in the document.

According to the most recent data from the National Statistics Office, almost half of Bukidnon’s two cities and 20 municipalities have a poverty incidence of more than 50 percent, with two towns registering the highest rate of 71 percent.

“Sugar farming has not necessarily brought progress to some communities, including the many families and workers that rely on it for income,” it noted.

CMU added that major sugar-producing towns in the province showed poverty incidences of between 26 and 50 percent.

According to the briefer, the Child Labor Committee of Bukidnon together with the other sugar industry stakeholders believe that one of the factors hampering the growth of the industry is the lack of
management and technical skills in the current workforce. It added that many sugar planters are less receptive of new farm technologies.

“These issues contribute to low productivity and a host of other undesirable side effects, foremost of  which is child labor,” the briefer said.

Soriano said one of the innovative proposals to address the problem is the development of a curriculum on sugar farm management.

Industry leaders present in the consultation welcomed the course and vowed to follow guidelines in selecting farmworkers to be sent to the program as scholars with the help of SIFI.

The program will initially accommodate 25 students in June.

The course will eventually be opened to enrollees around Mindanao other than the children of sugar workers. But SIFI said the course will only be offered in CMU. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)