It’s 8:30 am, a school day and there are 20 ten-year olds waiting excitedly for the game to begin. Their chatter echoes across the high-walled school gymnasium. They ooh and aah, and point at an enormous colourful carpet laid out in front of them.
An adult voice hushes the children.
“Good morning children, my name is Madame Lorenzini,” she says,
“Good Morning Madame Lorenzini,” they sing-song back.
“Today, children, we will be playing the Decent Work Game, and learning about a little girl called Isha, who is about your age, who fell into child labour but was rescued by the International Labour Organization”.
Madame Lorenzini is the Creative Manager of Espace Entreprise, a Swiss training centre for apprenticeships and technical learning, which has been helping promote the International Labour Organization (ILO) Decent Work Game in schools. And it’s clearly a hit with the young ones, who listen intently to the narrative and eagerly step from one symbol to another on the carpet-like board.
The Decent Work Game is an innovative way of drawing attention to some of the issues that are at the core of the ILO’s social justice mandate – child labour, forced labour, gender equality, and disability. Players walk in the shoes of real people who were rescued from exploitation, gaining a better understanding of the issues and how the ILO helps address them.
In April 2018, an ILO team visited the Ecole de Pâquis-Centre, one of the largest and most diverse primary schools in French-speaking Switzerland, with 68 nationalities and 43 languages spoken. This visit was part of the agenda on promoting decent work to the wider public.
In collaboration with the Eduki Foundation and Espace Entreprise, the ILO showcased the Decent Work Game to over 60 students aged between 10 and 13 years old. During this visit the children explored a story on child labour and drew their interpretations and feelings on what they had learnt.
“The approach is really to make our students discover the reality of other children’s lives in other countries, and to make them understand how lucky they are to be able to come to school, to be able to study while in other countries children are subject to doing daily work as adults and do not have the same opportunities,” said Joël Fuchs, Principal of Ecole de Pâquis-Centre.
Before beginning the game, six teenage apprentices from Espace Entreprise divide the children into three groups and confidently explain the topic of child labour and the role of the ILO. The apprentices are assessed on their performance and have spent the past several weeks collaborating with ILO staff and researching the topic of child labour, ILO priority issues and the Decent Work Game.
“It’s unfair, because we can go to school, we don’t have to work, our parents will earn money, whereas these kids have to earn money by themselves and they earn so little…Sometimes they put themselves at risk, for instance in mines, some rocks might fall on them… If they don’t go to school, they don’t really have a future,” said 12-year-old Lou after playing the game.
First developed in 2015 by the ILO’s Department of Communication’s (DCOMM), the Decent Work Game has been exhibited five times, each time receiving very positive reviews. At the ILO Stand for the UN Open Day in October 2017 in Geneva, the game had approximately 1,000 players, and was one of the most popular stands, particularly with children.
By combining story-telling with puzzle-like problem solving and physical movement, the game has proved very engaging with children between the ages of 7 and 15. But the game is not just for children, and a number of adults who played it were moved to tears by the true stories.
Introducing the Decent Work Game to Schools
The educational and interactive merits of the game have proven particularly attractive for teachers. During an exhibit of the game at the Global Festival of Action on Sustainable Development in Bonn in March 2018, several educational institutions asked to be allowed to exhibit the game in schools around the world.
The visit to the Pâquis-Centre school was the first time the game had been played at a school. Introducing the Decent Work Game into schools is a great opportunity to create awareness among children in their formative years, and teach the values of decent and fair work.
DCOMM is first approaching local schools in Geneva to test its success and will then expand to other areas. The game is currently available in French and English, but in future will also be available in Spanish, Russian and other languages.