31 March 2016

Education: Key to eliminate child labor

The International Labor Organization (ILO) launched the World Day against Child Labor in 2002 to focus attention on the global extent of child labor and action to eliminate it. Every year, the day links governments, employers and worker’s organizations, and civil society, among others, in the campaign against child labor.

The incidence of child labor in Nepal is relatively high compared with other countries in South Asia.  According to data from the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) and other national surveys, Nepal has 34% of its children between the age of 5 and 14 who are involved in child labor, compared with 12% in the South Asia region as a whole.

There are more female than male child laborers, and the situation is worse in rural than urban areas. In 2010, 44% of children age 5 to 14 were involved in child labor activities in the mid- and far-western regions of Nepal. According to the Nepal Labor Force Survey (NLFS) in 2008, 86.2% of children who were working were also studying and 13.8% of the children work only. 

Child labor existing in Nepal on different sectors i.e. agricultural children are involved in production, industrial children are used as a labor force, mines and kilns, informal sector (children working in rag-picking, tea-shops and restaurants, porter, scavenging, shoe shinning, street vendoring, rickshaw driving etc.). Likewise, construction works children working at road, house, sewage, hydro-power construction etc. Plantation children working for production of tea, sugarcane, tobacco etc. and domestic service children, especially girls, provide domestic services for child care, kitchen work, house cleaning, grazing cattle, etc. Last but not the least, other worst forms of child labor bonded labor, child sex trade, trafficked children etc.

Labeled as one of the poorest and most undeveloped nations in the world, Nepal’s poor economic status contributes to the high rate of child labor and poverty. When families are faced with monetary hardships, they are often forced to send their children to work, sometimes in extremely hazardous conditions, merely to attain basic subsistence. Nepal’s rigid social structure also contributes to child labor. Inequalities between groups in society often augment poverty, which in turn forces parents to send their children to become part of the workforce. Social inequalities causing child labor can most vividly be seen with bonded child labor.

One of the most effective ways to combat child labor is to change misunderstanding from within. This can only be done through education. Education acts not only as means to develop the minds of children, but also as a foundation for social change.

Education can transform a child's life. Going to school opens up new avenues and opportunities with child learning to think, explore, discover, question and acquire knowledge. Only if all working children are in school can it lead to equity and justice, further deepening the foundation of our democracy. On this day, we must create a social trust and faith in the poor, to stand by them, and celebrate their victories for having taken the right decision to send their children to schools instead of work.

The education of a child should not be hindered by a family’s income. Moreover, schools should be tailored to accommodate the needs of all the children. Various types of schooling, such as formal, informal, non-formal, vocational, semi-vocational or pre-vocational education could be introduced.

Offering incentives, such as financial assistance to families, is an effective way to ensure children are sent to school rather than to factories. Since children often work to supplement the family’s income, monetary incentives from the government substitute for the child’s income contribution so that the child can go to school.

Child workers are not the only ones who need to be educated. Parents must also be aware of the dangers of child labor, the devastating effects working may have on their child and on the larger society, and most importantly, their feasible options (i.e., education, government programs, etc.). Likewise, teachers also play vital role to give proper ideas and knowledge about child labor. So, by providing different training for teachers we can improve the quality of education.
In order for real change, there needs to be societal mobilization. The elimination of child labor cannot solely rely on legislation and enforcement; the Nepalese society must attain a common understanding of the negative effects child labor has on their children, their families, their economy, and their county.

There is no better investment for a society than education. Educating child today, have a lifelong impact on their health, nutrition, employment and growth. Most fundamentally, education is a basic human right to be addressed.

Every census shows staggering figures of children engaged in labor across the country. In fact, we see this being directly proportional to the increasing poverty in the country. In such a scenario, how can the situation improve? On the positive side, the government has taken some concrete, commendable steps. But what the government also needs to address is the root-cause, which is poverty.


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