01 Dec Students uncover not so sweet side of chocolate

When Year 9 social studies students Brodie Seelen and Travis Fleming were given the task of researching and presenting on an issue, they chose child labour. This led them to uncover the often hidden-from-view abuse of child labour within the chocolate industry. 

Brodie and Travis learnt many things about the scale and nature of the problem, such as the disparity between children’s and adults’ wages, child trafficking and the poor conditions children are often working in. They also discovered which brands of chocolate are more likely to source from cocoa bean growers who exploit children.

The keen social scientists say that while most New Zealand brands are good, people need to watch out for companies and products such as Hershey’s, Snickers, Ferrero Rocher, Nestle, Reese’s and Guylian. An idea that made a big impact on the boys was a quote they came across in their research: ‘Your child’s Halloween chocolate most likely came at the expense of another child.’

Teacher Whaea Chanel Ngaruhe gave them the brief to present their research in poster form and that’s what led Brodie to come up with the idea of the block of chocolate. While he worked on the visual side of things, Travis got busy gathering key information which was displayed on each chocolate segment.

The boys have a proven track record for working well as a team. They put it down to “having a bit of faith” in each other and having known each other for some time. “In other subjects we work together,” Travis said. “If we have the opportunity to work together, we will.”

They say that this whole year in social studies has been an eye-opener as to how lucky we are here in New Zealand. They hope that their research may help to make a small difference. “I know it’s a little thing but if we all stopped buying those brands it might send a message,” Brodie said.

For more insight into the chocolate industry, check out the documentary ‘The Dark Side of Chocolate’.

By Sera King – Teacher of Journalism