How Do You Stop Child Labor?

How do you get poor children out of the streets? How do you get them to attend school? The answer is difficult because even if you have a sound school system it doesn’t mean that all kids will come. The poorest families cannot afford to send their children, even if the school is free. Why? Because they need to eat and a child can work and bring an income to the parents. On the other hand only an educated child can break out of poverty. How do you break the vicious cycle?


Cristovam Buarque is a Brazilian politician and university professor who has been relentlessly fighting for education in his country. With a group of friends, in the late 80′s he came up with an idea to break this cycle. In 1995 he ran and was elected governor of the Federal District which includes the capital, Brasilia. That was the perfect opportunity to implement this program called Bolsa Escola (School Fund.)

The conditions to apply were simple. The family income had to be equal or inferior to half the minimum wage, all the children of the family had to attend a minimum of 90% of the classes and the father had to be enrolled in the national system for job seekers. In exchange, Bolsa Escola complemented their income depending on the size of the family. The money was given to the mother who culturally  shows more commitment and responsibility.

The results? During the four years of Cristovam Buarque’s mandate, the Federal District government managed to reach about  25.000 families, or 50.000 children, at a cost of less than 1% of the annual budget. Children became more confident about their future. Truancy fell from 10 to 0,4%. Employment and income through small businesses (food and clothing) rose by 30% in the communities involved in the program. NGOs noticed a reduction in domestic violence and an improvement of the parents’ level of schooling. The women’ s self-esteem rose and their power within the family too.

The program was so successful that other municipalities and Brazilian states adopted similar programs. Other countries like Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, Tanzania, Guatemala, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey and El Salvador followed the same idea. Even New York started in 2008 a pilot program modeled on Bolsa Escola.

In Brazil this simple idea, which requires little funds, was implemented nationwide by Cristovam Buarque when he became Education minister in 2003  under the name Bolsa Familia.  It is now credited as one of the main contributing factors for the reduction in poverty in Brazil.

Cristovam Buarque twitter page

Jackeline Barbosa (Brazilian High School Student)


Like every morning, she took her school bus in Bethel, CT. The bus driver suddenly passed out and she quickly took control of the bus. She then had all students get off. Via