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May 4, 2015

Children at work

Editorial

 
May 4, 2015

The issue of child labour in our country is one that has been debated and discussed for a very long time. Although statistics on the matter are somewhat questionable, organisations have reported that up to eight million children across the country work to help support impoverished families. While the argument goes that their income is necessary to enable these families to survive, the fact is that more employment for adults, measures that can offer families welfare support and help limit family size as well as free, quality education for children would play a huge part in ending child labour. The reality is that many children go to work since they are simply unwilling to attend public sector schools which offer them so little and where corporal punishment, non-existent facilities and teacher absenteeism is a daily reality.
We hope all these factors are in the vision of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif who, on Friday, while inaugurating a workers complex on Raiwind Road said that the Punjab government intended to banish child labour in brick kilns within the next six months. There are currently 250,000 children believed to be toiling in brick kilns in the country, out of which at least half are thought to be based in Punjab. A significant number of them are bonded to the kiln owners, sometimes along with their entire families. Clearly, this is a desperate situation and rescuing these children would be a huge service to society. The Punjab government has in the past demonstrated resolve when tackling similar issues. The Child Welfare and Protection Bureau, intended to remove children from the streets, has worked well even though it has of course not enjoyed a hundred percent rate of success. We hope the same zeal will go into the task of taking children away from hazardous kilns. These children deserve to be in schools so that their future can be a safer one with more opportunity open to them. Precisely what strategies the government adopts to go about this

task will be significant. The police and local administrations will all need to be involved given that brick kiln owners often wield significant power. What is also important is that the measure be sustained beyond the immediate few months and children kept away from kilns in future years as well. If this can be achieved, it would be an enormous success and one for which the Punjab government would deserve a loud round of applause.