Over 200 children living at brick kilns were enrolled in schools on Tuesday in Nankana Sahib as part of a Labour Department campaign to eradicate child labour at the kilns.
Labour Department Integrated Project for the Elimination of Child and Bonded Labour Director Javed Gill said all the children had been placed in schools within a two-kilometre radius from where they lived. “The department has conducted a survey in Sheikupura, Lahore, Kasur and Nankana (on child labour at kilns),” he said. He said this was the first such survey that employed international models and statistical tools. Gill said the enrolment of students was the fifth stage of the project. He said a comprehensive approach had been used to assess the situation and make appropriate recommendations in a phased manner.
Gill said the collated figures had been taken from 72 kilns. He said figures from five kilns had not been used as they were not operating when the survey was conducted. Gill termed the campaign’s announcement a breakthrough, saying it demonstrated that education was the way to eliminate child labour.
Labour Minister Raja Ashfaq Sarwar thanked the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for supporting the endeavour. “Education is crucial for national development,” he said. Sarwar said the youth must get technical education if not formal schooling. He said only an enlightened youth would be in a position to benefit from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). “The CPEC is one of the greatest opportunities that the nation has had to make something of itself since its inception,” Sarwar said.
ILO Country Director Francesco D’Ovidio spoke about the government’s pledge to rid kilns of child labour in six months. “The slogan is good but time does not matter,” he said. D’Ovidio said the fact that research on the issue was conducted for the first time since 1996 was noteworthy.
Muhammad Ashraf, an educator from Choukhianwala Government Girls Model School, said 14 children had been enrolled at the school. He said the school would test the students to ascertain which classes they should sit in.
“While this a good measure by the government, teachers cannot take responsibility of ensuring student attendance,” Ashraf said adding that most parents tended not to be committed to their children’s education. “To ensure that these children keep coming to school it is very important to make sure that their families relocate and are given alternate residence,” said Abdul Ghafoor, an educator, from Sagianwala Government Primary School where 13 of the children have been enrolled.
Among the children enrolled at schools was eight-year-old Nisha who had earlier spent the days doing odd jobs to support her parents. “I will now go to school every day,” she said.
The Labour Department survey had identified 446 children living at brick kilns in Nankana Sahib. Out of these, 293 had never gone to school. The project targets these children. The children, who were also given school bags and books at the inauguration ceremony, will begin school on Friday (today).
While the initiative was formally inaugurated in Nankana Sahib, students would be placed in schools in all the districts where the survey was conducted. The campaign had commenced in the wake of an announcement by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif regarding child labour eradication province-wide.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 26th, 2015.