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    » 06/13/2012, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    Children divided between school and work vs politicians' indifference

    Joseph Laldin

    AsiaNews tells the story of two Muslim brothers, who are at school with their books in the morning, and sells toys and trinkets in the afternoon. Both the government and politicians are criticised for showing little interest in street kids' welfare. Despite their hardships, the boys are studying and building a better future.

    Lahore (AsiaNews) - "We have no hopes with present legislators and policy-makers", said Master Muzafar Hussain and Master Qaiser Mehmood, respectively 14 and 12. "We live on our own. The leaders are least bothered about the street-children's welfare," the two brothers told AsiaNews.

    Despite hardships and deprivations, the two have not lost hope for a brighter future. In the morning, they go to school, and in the afternoon, instead of playing or doing homework, they go into streets to sell electronic gadgets and toys "Because our father does not earn enough for the family." Conscious of the situation, "We have to give up our leisure time and economically help our parents."

    As civil society celebrated World Day against Child Labour, the two boys went through the same routine of work, dedication and sacrifice yesterday.

    Child exploitation in agriculture was the theme of the tenth edition of the event sponsored by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). In farming, about 70 per cent of the workforce is under the age of 18.

    According to SPARC, a Pakistan child rights NGO, child labour is widespread in many sectors of society, "from light jobs to hazardous tasks." Recent estimates "indicate that around 11-12 million children are employed as child labourers, half of them under the age of ten."

    In the morning, Hussain and Mehmood attend grade 9 and 6 class at a public school in Lahore. Once they put away their books, they head out to sell toys, balloons and electronic accessories until 9 PM.

    When asked what they thought about the World Day against Child Labour, they said, "We do not know what it is." They do know however that by working, "our younger brothers can get a standard education."

    Mehmood, the younger of the two, cannot hide his desire "to play with his schoolmates in the evening, but I cannot do it because my mother says: 'We need the money'."

    The 12-year-old has no "specific demands" for the government, but he does hope that one day he can "travel by car, study in a standard school and spend times with friends."

    In the future, he wants to become an engineer to leave behind his present hardships. His 14-year-old brother shares the same hopes. With a book in one hand and goods to sell in the other, he too walks the streets of the city.

    "Sometimes, people discourage me and do not allow me to get close to their cars or kids," he said.

    He feels hurt by people's hatred or contempt towards him because he is "poor and a labourer". He also feels "embarrassment" when some of his schoolmates see him working.

    Suddenly, the boys' father Shair Muhammad shows up on his motorbike. He too sells toys he carries on his bike.

    "I'm trying to educate my children the best I can," he told AsiaNews. "I'd like to give them a better education, but they have to work hard."

    He is proud of them and their economic contribution to the family; he is also not shy to criticise the government for "its unsatisfactory progress and poor policies" for children.

    For him, "It's because of poor governance and unequal distribution of resources in society."

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    See also

    12/06/2014 PAKISTAN

    Faisalabad: Christian and Muslim activists united against child labour
    Today is World Day Against Child Labour. Activists make an appeal to the government to ensure the right of studying and actions to protect children and minors. Harmful effects of child labour on children, the economy and nation. Obligation of the state to ensure the right to free and compulsory education for all children.

    09/09/2004 ASIA
    Child illiteracy and child labour are the continent's main social ills

    One fifth of India's GNP is generated by exploited minors working in farming sector.



    19/06/2012 PAKISTAN
    For the future of Pakistan, no more exploitation of children
    This is what Sobia John is asking for, a young activist involved in the defense of children. The government and civil society are responsible for the suffering of children. The succession of governments over the years, she claims, have promoted no initiatives aimed at children. Guarantee the rights of children to form "good citizens" of tomorrow.

    13/06/2005 PAKISTAN
    In Pakistan, three children were abused every day in 2004
    According to the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, 1,549 children were sexually abused in the country last year.

    11/06/2008 INDIA
    Education and learning against child exploitation, says Lenin Raghuvanshi
    On World Day against Child Labour, the Indian activist calls for better schooling for everyone as the only solution to the problem. Some 55 million children live in slave-like conditions, especially among the lowest castes of society.



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