By: Tiffany Baker, Program Clerk
Free education to children is one of the cornerstones to American society. It was not always a priority here. In the early 1900’s, many of our nation’s youth were found in factories instead of the school house. However, that all changed during the same time thanks to the reform movements and labors standards that demanded new legislation to regulate child labor. Despite our advances as a nation, farmworker children are still at a disadvantage. They face many obstacles that inhibit their education which continues to impact the rest of their lives.
One of the biggest obstacles facing farmworker children has do to with their economic situation. Many of their parents struggle to make ends meet due to the little wages they receive for their work in the fields. In order for the family to survive, many of these children will have to accompany their parents in the fields. While the United States has laws in place that limit child labor to 3 hours a day during the school year in other industries, that is not the case in the agricultural world. It has been reported that many of these children work up to 30 hours a week in the fields. That amount of time during a school week leaves little room for academic success.
Another obstacle that these children face is the constant moving around. Many of their parents are migrant workers who move from state to state trying to find work as the seasons change. Sometimes, the whole family has to go. This means, news surroundings and new schools. Changing schools so often is far from ideal. These students have to deal with either being too ahead or far behind their classmates. Different schools work at different paces and these students then have to adapt themselves to it. Because of this, these children are more likely to repeat grades. They can also suffer emotionally because they do not have a stable situation compared to other kids. According to Human Rights Watch, only 5% of farmworker children will graduate from high school.
Lastly, many of these children may have to deal with a language barrier. Roughly 81% of farmworkers primary language is Spanish. Due to this, many farmworker children may not have experienced the use of formal English prior to entering the school system. According to the Language Programs for the Disadvantaged, “Language is the greatest block to the realization of the deprived full potential.” This means that these children would need more help to excel. Adding in the constant moving around and you leave these children farther behind.
While these obstacles stand in the way, many children are overcoming these obstacles and establishing a better future for themselves as well as for their families through programs that encourage their success. One of these programs is AFOP’s National Farmworker Jobs Programs. The Program aims to educate and train farmworkers into jobs that allow them to make a suitable income for themselves. It has 51 member agencies that serve agricultural workers in 49 states and Puerto Rico. With more programs like this and better legislation, Farmworker children can have a better change at creating a better future.