From child labour to literacy

Published: May 31, 2010
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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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Reader Comments (1)

  • May 31, 2010 - 4:39AM

    While these measures are long over due, such measures are tried and tested and have proven to be unsustainable. Offering scholarships is well in good, however the sustainability of these scholarships is questionable. Will the funds always be available? The delivery of these scholarships is open to red tape and favouritism. And worse still, it fails to empower families and students who feel dependent on outside help. Students and parents are unlikely to question ineffective polices or poor provision as they are net recipients fearful of loosing the scholarships and support.

    Conditional cash transfers have proven successful in some cases. Columbia and Venezuela have had notable successes. However, as you mention food and clothing must be provided, though that may just not be enough. As long as the prospects of educated students is the same as illiterate young people there will remain little incentive enter schooling and remain enrolled. Such scholarships open the door, however that is not an end in itself. Keeping children enrolled, making sure they maintain attendance and have a supportive environment to work in is more complicated. Recommend

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