Regional Director Ofelia Domingo of Department of Labor and Employment 12 described the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)-Public Employment Service Office (PESO) and Sultan Kudarat-Tripartite Industrial Peace Council’s free education program for working children in the public markets as manifestation of a true public-private partnership in action.
 
DOLE and SK-TIPC, together with the Public Employment Service Offices of Tacurong City and Isulan distributed school supplies, slippers and raincoats to 52 elementary and 11 high school students in a program held on June 13, 2013 at the Notre Dame of Tacurong College. Thirty-nine of the beneficiaries are residents of Tacurong while 25 came from the neighboring town of Isulan. Said students known also as “mga batang-palengke” are beneficiaries of the Knowledge Program for Intermittent Thriving Children (KPITC) who had been enjoying the educational assistance for three years now.
Director Domingo, Tacurong Mayor Lina Montilla and Isulan Mayor Diosdado Pallasigue led the distribution of the school kits to the beneficiaries. TIPC members and PESO Managers in the Province of Sultan Kudarat also attended the event.
Apart from receiving school supplies and other kits, the children are also regularly benefiting from the free medical and dental check-ups done by the Isulan Medical Specialist Center Incorporated and the Sultan Kudarat Doctors Hospital, two of SK-TIPC’s member organizations. The Local Government Units (through their Local Health Offices) provide medicines to beneficiaries who are diagnosed of illnesses.
In her message, Director Domingo lauded the SK-TIPC’s initiative. She even mentioned that the KPITC had preceded DOLE’s HELP-ME (Health, Education, Livelihood and Protection-Monitoring, Evaluation) convergence initiative seeking to address the problem of child labor in the country. While the HELP ME program just rolled out in 2013, DOLE-PESO and SK-TIPC’s Knowledge Program had been assisting children who are at risk of child labor for three years now.
“This KPITC is a source of pride for Region 12 and is truly a public-private partnership in action because of the convergence of various organizations desiring to eliminate child labor,” Director Domingo said.
Domingo also cited Provincial Head Arlene Bisnon and the DOLE-SK Field Office in spearheading the implementation of the project. “The SK Field Office once again proved that it is worthy of its award as the Best Organizational Unit in DOLE 12 for three consecutive years now,” she said.
Children at risk of child labor
In 2011, DOLE-Sultan Kudarat Field Office found out that there were nearly 100 kids of market vendors in Tacurong and Isulan who were considered at risk of child labor because they were working in the public market in the same way as their parents although their workloads were lighter and were usually limited to selling cellophanes, vegetables, and other products.
Bisnon shared the observation in one of the meetings of SK-TIPC, in which she sits as the chairperson. Driven by the desire to help the children at risk, the council agreed to initiate a project that would help the children with the primary objective of encouraging the parents to prioritize their children’s studies instead of work. That was the time when the KTIPC was conceptualized.
Under the KPITC project, the DOLE identified children of market vendors in Tacurong and Isulan who were attending school but were going to work in the market after school hours and on weekends. The DOLE and SK-TIPC explained to the parents that the educational expenses of their children will be shouldered by benefactors as long as they would promise to let their children finish school.
Under the program, Notre Dame of Tacurong College (a TIPC member) provides the classrooms and volunteer teachers for the special Saturday classes of the students. Bisnon revealed that while the vendors’ children were going to school, most if not all had been performing poorly in classes due to the fact that they did not have the time and friendly environment to study their lessons. Bisnon noted that the special classes attended by the beneficiaries proved to be beneficial as seen in the improvement of their grades in school.
All pioneering members of the SK-TIPC including the KARBEMPCO, Tacurong Parish, Kenram Industrial Development Corporation, and the Isulan Medical Specialist Center among others sponsor their own KP beneficiaries by providing for their whole-year tuition fees. Other benefactors are public officials and private individuals.
The DOLE-PESO and SK-TIPC, because of their end goal to eliminate child labor, continue to attract various organizations to join the cause. The Isulan Chamber of Commerce and Tacurong Filipino Chamber of Commerce are some of the newest benefactors of the KPITC.
Livelihood assistance for children’s parents
                The KPITC boosted its holistic approach in helping the children by also providing livelihood assistance to their parents through the DOLE Integrated Livelihood Program (DILP). On June 13, right after the distribution of educational kits to the children, Director Domingo turned over fourteen Nego-Karts to each of the fourteen parents of the beneficiaries in Tacurong.
                Bisnon said that the Nego-Karts will be a huge help to the parents because they can now have decent display carts for their products instead of putting them on the sidewalks. The carts would also allow the vendors to increase their daily income because they have the luxury to roam around the public market. “We are making another proposal to the regional office so that other parents of the KP beneficiaries could receive the same livelihood assistance soon,” Bisnon added.
                Prior to the distribution of Nego-Karts in Tacurong, twenty parents of KPITC beneficiaries in Isulan had also received livelihood starter kits from the DOLE in March. (Allan Freno, PESO-LGU Tacurong City)