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February 28, 2021

Childhood spoiled for meager wages

Islamabad

February 28, 2021

Rawalpindi: Rawalpindi city recognized for its riches and rag pickers, finds Ali Yazdain, a boy in his early teens, hawking battery cells and other gadgets. He took up this job as his father is an alcoholic and is unable to bear the load of his family. Therefore, Ali Yazdain and his mother, a house cleaner, are shouldering the entire load.

‘’I was in the sixth class and doing well in school when all of a sudden I had to abandon studies and soon after that I found myself in city bazaars and streets with cells and other wares in both hands running from one person to another and making frantic efforts to sell the goods to them’’, says Ali Yazdain. The expression in his eyes shows that he has gone back to the past, though shortly.

For some time, it was difficult to forget his school and friends. Now he has attuned to his new environment and seldom recalls the school days. It is all over for him as far as school-going is concerned. When asked whether he would spend his entire life like this, “No, I would like to see myself going up on the ladder of life,” he retorts.

Ali Yazdain is not the only child in this city to have such hard luck. There are hundreds of such ill-fated boys, who had to quit their school halfway to earn a livelihood, however small it may be.

Asif Raza, a 10-year-old boy, landed here from Karachi leaving his family behind. He was in class five in a school there. ‘’The teacher used to beat me quite frequently, so I left the school and reached here and started staying with my elder brother,” he says. Similar is the story of Faheem Haider, the only difference being that he has never been to school. Both work at a tea stall.

Before noon, one finds city bazaars packed with shoeshine boys. Most of them never have been to any school. They mostly come from local slums. Because of poverty, their first priority is not education but earning some money by the sunset to fill their stomachs.

There is nothing wrong as far as working on tea stalls, hawking the goods, and polishing the shoes is concerned, nonetheless; there are laws against child labor.

However, it seems that these laws are only for the outside world to show that we feel concerned about our poor children, several of whom die before even entering puberty because of malnutrition.

The major question is about the outcome of the bad company on these gullible children and the ensuing vices they get. Hence, it is not shocking that most of these boys end up as criminals. They use all sorts of intoxicants like liquor and cigarette.