Child labour has plagued this country for years. The Punjab Education Foundation (PEF) has been working to improve upon its Education Voucher Scheme in attempts to eliminate the scourge. The foundation has taken initiatives for the improvement of education by combining public-private partnerships in the sector and the effectiveness of these measures can be gauged through non-existent dropout rates by its beneficiaries. The scheme stipulates that children in several districts currently engaged in child labour will be selected to enter the education system on full scholarships. The Lahore and Kasur districts have already begun selecting 16,000 students under the sixth phase of the scheme and one hopes that the scheme can eventually extend throughout the province and to other provinces as well.
The only obstacle is the lack of legislation that rules out an option B for children forced to earn for their parents. If the law of the country makes clear stipulations against child labour it will be much easier to circumvent social pressures and effectively implement such measures. Also, the children selected under the scheme need to be provided with lodging and food during their schooling to take them off the streets. Pakistan is presently hosting an entire generation of illiterate, poor and exploited children who cannot contribute to the country when they reach adulthood given their current predicament.
The PEF needs to be supported by the government through foreign aid currently funnelled into the country. If this aid is applied to taking children out of poverty then no amount spent is too much. The government needs to clearly stipulate that basic education is a fundamental human right and work towards legalising access to it.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 31st, 2010.
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