By ZARAH FATAH
Children are the flowers of heaven. They are the most beautiful and purest creation of God. Anyone up to the age of 18 is a child and has a basic right to receive education and proper upbringing. Child labor is a serious social problem within Pakistan and is considered a violation of human rights by the United Nations.
I was recently passing by a chai dhaba in Karachi with my friends and I saw two young boys, not older than 10 or 12 working there with their torn shirts, dirty hands and feet and broken smiles, and it hit me suddenly that its every day that we encounter such scenes almost everywhere, yet we are somewhat oblivious to it, or we just think about it for 30 minutes and get over it, I know I do. This time, I really wanted to give it a thought.
According to the Federal Bureau of Statistics of Pakistan, 3.3 million out of 40 million children are working in various industries, although child labor is strictly prohibited by law. Child Labor is a serious social problem within Pakistan because the future and progress of any country depends on an educated and enlightened youth and if a child is not properly socialized then he/she will not be able to grow as confident and literate Pakistani citizens. Education itself is an issue of gigantic proportions here for the underprivileged and I think it goes hand in hand with the child labor issue; no schools for the poor leads to no proper educating system which leads to children not going to school and ‘free’ kids better be out there doing something, anything to bring bread home leads to them taking up any source of income they can, which usually ends up working for factories or dhabas or hand-made crafts and that is a lot of labor for very cheap cost. The status of the family directly influences the choices available to a child and obviously if a family is extremely poor with comparatively less resources then consequently, each member, be it a child or an adult will be required to work and bring in money in order to survive.
For most people of Pakistan, religion is an important course of their lives, so I will add a bit of religion too. Islam says that if the child is unable to get education and if he/she is heading for an ill fate, he/she should be able to work but for his employers is to take care that they should not be burdened in any way that is harmful for them or assigned duties that will affect or harm or is unable to be performed by their bodies.
My concern remains that why do children at such young age need to work? Why isn’t there enough employment for their parents? Why isn’t their proper schooling system for them to go and learn? Why are children unmotivated to go to schools? Is it because their parents are lazy? Is it because these children are the only breadwinners? Or is it because they are forced to?
Be it any reason for child labor, it is just not acceptable to compromise education for. I believe there should be a proper schooling system in areas prone to child labor. In houses where parents are sitting idle and making their children earn, should be provided with a solution such as employing their parents. Laws should be stricken so that every child should at least complete high school before getting employed anywhere. Parents need to stop encouraging child labor. There should be a proper awareness program for the parents so that they learn what education can do for their children. These people need to balance their children’s education and work. If a child wants to earn extra money, he/she should not skip school for it but the only key left is to balance.