Arooj Khalid / youthjournalism.org
A girl collects garbage in the Shadman section of Lahore.
By Arooj Khalid
LAHORE, Pakistan – A nation’s children are its most important part. They are the flowers of heaven, with innocent smiles and blessed faces.
Those who play with toy cars and dolls today are tomorrow’s politicians, engineers, journalists, doctors, artists and businessmen.
With a good education, they can do great things, benefiting not only themselves but also their country.
Too many, though, are put to work at an early age – as young as seven – to earn money for their families. They have no chance to get an education.
A large number of precious youngsters, who could have changed the world, are lost.
These pitiful angels never receive the care they need so their health becomes worse. They have no social life. Nobody in this society respects them because they are not well off or schooled, even though it’s not their fault.
Their childhood days, which should be so beautiful, are also completely ruined.
They don’t even receive pay worthy of the work they do. And whatever they do make is taken by their parents or guardians and spent on the whole family.
Often, around our house, I see objects lying around that give me the creeps. I can’t help thinking they may have been made by children or teenagers like me, only poorer and more helpless.
It’s not easy thinking of youngsters who have never eaten twice in a day, never seen comforts such as their own room, never had an iPod or a computer or a Play Station, never had lots of clothes or jewelry, never even had any friends. They never really even had a childhood.
They never get their rights, not even ones for the basic labor, because they are so young. They have no job safety either. If they get harmed, nobody takes responsibility.
How can someone expect a 9-year-old not to get injured while working with dangerous chemicals or lifting heavy loads? They do tasks that could take their lives, from working by the hot ovens of brick kilns to the use of sharp tools.
While going through such hazardous work, children also have to face employers who often exploit them. Employers take advantage of children, forcing them to do more work than they can bear and then abuse them besides.
The main reason all of this happens, in many nations today, is poverty.
Parents are forced to send their kids out into the hazardous world to earn money so that basic essentials can be fulfilled. Sometimes a family member suffers a disease whose treatment requires more money, forcing children into labor to earn it.
Another possible cause may be the parents’ own lack of education. In tribal areas, the superstitious still believe that education might spoil children, especially girls, and they shouldn’t get it.
Arooj Khalid / youthjournalism.org
An 11-year-old boy sells fruit in the Shadman market in Lahore, Pakistan to help support his family.
So the labor then goes on for generations. As one parent sends children to work, the children, when grown up, send their children to work, and so on.
According to the International Labor Organization, about 215 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are employed, all over the world. Asia employs most of them, too many of them in Pakistan itself.
Their labor is not what’s needed today.
Countries, especially those which are still developing, are in need of literacy, not laborers. If the youth of today are well educated, they can carve out a better tomorrow.
Child labor kills most chances for a nation to excel in all walks of life. It undermines the economy and helped cause the world recession. Governments should take steps to eradicate it entirely.
Some will say that child labor is labor like any other. But actually, it is the ruin of lives, the destruction of future generations, and the shame of the whole world.
Don't miss Arooj Khalid's news report on a 12-year-old Pakistani girl who spends her days as a kitchen maid.