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EDITORIAL: This year’s World Day against Child Labour themed “Social Justice for All. End Child Labour!” was yet another reminder that every child has a right to health, education and freedom from worries about work.

Yet every day millions of children work in all sorts of places. In Pakistan where social injustice is absent, poor families are forced to send their children to work in factories, mines, agricultural fields, workshops, eateries, and as domestic help.

Economic crisis having worsened during the last one year, many families faced with the choice of putting food on the table or educating their children have withdrawn children from schools. As rightly observed by an official of the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child on the World Day, one of the major causes of child labour is societal indifference towards it.

Successive governments in this country have been neglectful of their obligations towards children. At present, as many as 22.8 million children are out of school with the result that Pakistan has the lowest literacy rate among South Asian countries.

This despite the fact that Article 25-A of the Constitution clearly states that “the State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years.” In big cities, although the number of public sector schools is far less than those seeking education, at least they are in proper running order.

In the rural areas more often than not, schools lack basic requirements such as buildings, drinking water, and latrines, leading to a high student dropout rate. If that is not bad enough, there is the phenomenon of ghost schools and ghost teachers, though monthly salaries are regularly issued in their names, who receives them remains a mystery. Another serious issue is malnutrition. As a result, stunting and wasting are pervasive.

Nearly 10 million children are said to be suffering from stunting. A 2018 UNICEF report described the situation as “quite dire” — aggravated during the recent years — and explained that stunting does not mean a child is not having enough to eat.

It is about the quality of diet besides other factors, one of them being inadequate nutrition among mothers during pregnancy. Well-nourished children, on the other hand, are better equipped to grow and learn, combat disease, and turn out to be productive members of society.

Governments, federal and provincial, ought to take decisive measures to combat child labour and its root cause, social injustice.

But save for President Alvi who marked the World Day saying the challenge of child labour could be overcome by promoting social justice and ensuring the provision of quality education to children, all other government leaders at the centre and in the provinces did not bother to even issue ritual statements on the occasion.

Long -term progress and prosperity of this nation, needless to say, is closely linked to all children having access to education and proper nourishment.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

Comments

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Azeem Hakro Jun 15, 2023 10:30am
Sir, child labor in Pakistan is a serious problem due to poverty, lack of education, and societal indifference. However, the government's efforts to address this issue have several shortcomings. Enforcement of existing laws against child labor is weak, and comprehensive strategies are lacking. Access to quality education and effective poverty alleviation programs are limited. To overcome these shortcomings, the government should strengthen law enforcement, improve access to education, enhance poverty alleviation programs, raise public awareness, and collaborate with stakeholders. By taking these steps, Pakistan can make significant progress in eradicating child labor and ensuring a better future for its children.
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