Recently, I heard a story from one of the NGOs working in Cambodia about a trafficked Cambodian expelled by the Thai police.
Sadly, this man had lost his past, forgotten about his village as he had been taken from there when he was so young.
He was transferred from one place to the next and possibly injured as his thinking was very confused.
He had never been out of that village before he was trafficked so he had no memory of his province or of the world around his tiny commune.
And given the changes that have taken place both in Cambodia and in him, he is not able to help identify his province, let alone his village. He could not remember his family.
Was it amnesia or some injury? The police first brought him to the hospital close to the border and hoped that once he has recovered and rested, he would be better able to locate his family.
This story is only one of the sad tales of thousands of young boys and girls trafficked from remote villages to work in other countries, often in risky, exploitative and low paying jobs.
We are only beginning to open our eyes to the horrors of human trafficking but in this sad land, it has been going on for decades.
How can Skills development/TVET help? TVET can offer key interventions in helping kids before entering the workforce to have skills that will land them better paying jobs.
Often, in many remote villages poor kids have to start work the moment they are strong enough to work on the farm or as help in households.
Because of this, they leave school early without basic skills and end up in low paying jobs because of lack of knowledge, they often open themselves to abuse.
And hundreds of thousands must drop out after grade 5 or 6 because their work is needed to support the family on the farm or there is simply not enough money to buy the learning materials from the teachers!
As many of them need to work to help the family eat, other non formal ways of giving them skills must be developed have and implemented.
How can this be done? Before the recent growth in technology, this was almost impossible. Today, a new world of opportunities to develp highly accessible solutions is opening up.
Education planners have to take the plunge and use the latest technology to reach these kids who have to work to feed their families.
Traditional education systems are focused on the children who can stay in school and this takes all their energy and resources.
But look at these numbers. They show the masses of young people who leave the education system before the usual entry level for TVET training.
How do we set up systems that reach out to these millions (yes, millions) of kids to give them skills to earn a living at home instead of hopelessly looking for decent work across the border?
Or, if they choose to, go into jobs that are better paid and not be victims of exploitation.
Not much is offered now and it seems the greater the need, the less the opportunity.
We, of course, are much aware of the inability of many governments to act on this issue. The challenge is to private providers, social enterprises or non-government groups to respond to this need.
If governments can do this, the better. So far, the offering of online high school vocational education yields only one country offering such: Turkey.
The UFM eUniversity in Guatemala is reaching out to Spanish speaking people all over the world to take some online courses on skills.
Here is a sample of an online high school vocational diploma with concentration on carpentry.
These are important steps that must be taken by more institutions and governments so the adverse effects of human trafficking can be alleviated.
A pilot village based Skills bridging program has been developed in Cambodia thanks to the ADB, but it now waits government funds for full implementation.
The point is, there are answers. And without skills, the “voluntary” traffiking industry will grow in proportion to the unskilled drop outs and abused workers kids will end up in hospitals wondering what happened to the dream.