Child labor is defined as the illegal employment of minors (under 18 years of age) in heavy, burdensome work that involves minimum possible wage and unhygienic work conditions. Poverty and lack of family planning results in families forcing their children into work for richer families as servants. Several cases are found in our country of child abuse and illiteracy as a result of child labor. Due to this endemic of illiteracy and abuse, many children are deprived of their right to a secure childhood, education and health facilities. This tradition is common in both urban and rural areas; children are forced to work for minimum wage in households and factories where owners often carry out extreme discrimination leading to psychological and physical trauma for these children.
But what else can these children do? Their parents can’t afford to send them to school, can’t afford them to stay at home and indulge in a childhood fit for their age. Instead, they are forced to work, sometimes out of sheer desperation, sometimes from the fear of being at the end of their parent’s wrath due to the tenuous conditions of poverty.
By far, no proper legislation has been implemented in any area of Pakistan. According to the ILO, our country faces the most cases of child labour as minors can be exploited by owners for individual profit. To defeat this inhumane tradition, the following steps should be taken into consideration.
Employment of children under the age of 18 should be made illegal by legislation.
No child should be forced to spend their childhood cleaning dishes or mopping floors at someone’s house.
Monetary incentives should be given to poor families that choose to send their children to school up till the age of 18.
Money is a powerful motivator. Enough said.
Small schools should be established in different areas throughout the country.
This school should be headed by an appointed official. It will be easier to run and provide for its infrastructure than to develop one large school that fails to cater to the needs of the student.
The curriculum and stationery should be free and provided by the government to all children in these schools.
Similar to the education system employed in the USA which ensures that poverty does not stop children from going to school or getting food at their school.
Senior students from private schools should tutor at these schools.
Students wishing to intern should be encouraged to spend a part of their time teaching at these schools in order to bridge the gap between public school and private school education. Incentives should be given to all such interns. This will encourage parents to send their children to school in the hopes that their children might have a chance at a better future.
Employment of children in strenuous work environments should be banned by law.
This should be implemented in factories, especially in brick kilns found throughout the country. No child should spend their time out in the sun with sweat pouring down their face. A Child Protection Bureau should be established to make sure that if families cannot afford to financially raise a child, this center can make sure that they are placed with a suitable foster family.
What we can do an interpersonal, individual level is to advocate for education and literacy and be on the lookout for families or people who have children employed at their houses for menial or burdensome tasks. Educate such people and make them realize that while they rationalize this as a chance for the child to earn money, they could put some money aside for their education instead, as an act of charity. Nothing excuses employing little children to clean up your mess or look after your kids or help you around the house, no matter how healthy the conditions are – this will certainly take a toll on the child’s emotional and psychological development late in the future, if not now.
This author pleads with those who currently have children employed in their households to stop participating in this endless cycle of illiteracy, hopelessness, and poverty.
Please stop making them do tasks you would not have your own children do, instead fund their education, be responsible citizens and share the blessing and privilege that you have been given and hand them a pen, not your grocery list.
Each child is a part of our future, please don’t hold them back.