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Ensuring children’s rights

Ensuring children’s rights
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M Ahmad
Childhood is an age meant to carry dreams and aspirations, not the weight of this world. What happens when a country has over 3 million children living on the streets or has over 150 million children working as bonded laborers? What happens when despite having a national policy for compulsory primary child education and a child labour policy but only 50% of children have access to education!
The statement “Children are the future of the nation” stops making sense, then! Despite identifying primary child education as a key thrust area and possessing one of the largest networks of schools in the world yet in 2020-21 report by Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) revealed that the annual dropout rate of secondary school students was 14.6% and only 41 percent of schools have a computer and 24.5 percent have internet connectivity.
Every child has the right to health, education and protection, and every society has a stake in expanding children’s opportunities in life. Yet, around the world, millions of children are denied a fair chance for no reason other than the country, gender or circumstances into which they are born. It’s estimated that there are 160 million victims of child labour, worldwide, 79 million of child labour victims work in dirty, dangerous and degrading jobs.

‘World Day Against Child Labour’ aims to focus attention on the global extent of child labor and the action and efforts needed to eliminate it. Each year on 12 June, the World Day brings together governments, employers and workers organizations, civil society, as well as millions of people from around the world to highlight the plight of child laborers and what can be done to help them.
This international day was launched by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 2002. The Significance of the World Day Against Child Labour is to pay attention to the problem of child labour and to find ways to eradicate it. The day is used to spread awareness about the harmful mental and physical problems faced by children forced into child labour, all over the world.
The International Labour Organization defines child labour as “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.”
According to the ILO, child labour refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children and interferes with their schooling by depriving them of the opportunity to attend school, obliging them to leave school prematurely or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.
Government social protection systems are essential to fight poverty and vulnerability, and eradicate and prevent child labour. Social protection is both a human right and a potent policy tool to prevent families from resorting to child labour in times of crisis. However, as of 2020 and before the COVID-19 crisis took hold, only 46.9 per cent of the global population were effectively covered by at least one social protection benefit while the remaining 53.1 per cent – as many as 4.1 billion people – were left wholly unprotected. Coverage for children is even lower.
Nearly three quarters of children, 1.5 billion, lacked social protection. Children around the world are routinely engaged in paid and unpaid forms of work that are not harmful to them. However, they are classified as child labourers when they are either too young to work, or are involved in hazardous activities that may compromise their physical, mental, social or educational development. In the least developed countries, slightly more than one in four children (ages 5 to 17) are engaged in labour that is considered detrimental to their health and development.
The 2020-21 report by Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) revealed that the annual dropout rate of secondary school students was 14.6%. Every year, a large number of students drop out of school worldwide. This hinders their economic and social well-being as well as reduces the literacy rate of the country and creates a non-innovative environment. The issue of dropout in India is of particular importance and interest.
A recent survey by National Statistical Office (NSO) has revealed that around 12.6% of students drop out of school in India, 19.8% discontinued education at the secondary level, while 17.5% dropped out at the upper primary level. As per the survey, a dropout is an “ever-enrolled person” who does not complete the last level of education for which he/she has enrolled and is currently not attending any educational institution. School dropout in the year 2019-2020 had jumped to 3.7 in the elementary level and 16.6 in the secondary level in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Help in domestic work, economic condition, and lack of interest were found to be the topmost cause of discontinuing education. About 30.2% of the girls gave domestic work as the reason for discontinuing education and about 36.90% of boys left studies because they had to support their families. It becomes especially difficult for girls to continue studying because of concerns about their safety.
They face sanitary problems due to poor school facilities ultimately forcing them to stay back at home. Considered to be a liability, many girls are imposed to stay back at home, or are forced to get married at an early age. Many children believe that there is no point in studying if they have to do the same job as their parents, thus they leave school at primary level itself.
More than 30% of children involved in the survey showed a lack of interest in studies, they preferred to drop out because whatever was being taught in schools barely intrigued them. India is also dealing with the problems of inclusion and equality, children from the marginalized sections of the population, or with physical disability/ health issues have to leave schools when they face hostile behavior from their peers.
While the percentage of children in child labour is highest in low-income countries, their numbers are actually greater in middle-income countries. 9% all children in lower-middle-income countries, and 7% of all children in upper-middle-income countries, are in child labour.
Statistics on the absolute number of children in child labour in each national income grouping indicate that 84 million children in child labour, accounting for 56% of all those in child labour, actually live in middle-income countries, and an additional 2 million live in high-income countries.
The Africa and the Asia and the Pacific regions together account for almost nine out of every ten children in child labour worldwide. The remaining child labour population is divided among the Americas (11 million), Europe and Central Asia (6 million), and the Arab States (1 million). In terms of incidence, 5% of children are in child labour in the Americas, 4% in Europe and Central Asia, and 3% in the Arab States. Africa ranks highest among regions both in the percentage of children in child labour — one-fifth — and the absolute number of children in child labour — 72 million. Asia and the Pacific ranks second highest in both these measures — 7% of all children and 62 million in absolute terms are in child labour in this region.
The number of children in child labour has risen to 160 million worldwide – an increase of 8.4 million children in the last four years – with millions more at risk due to the impacts of COVID-19, according to a new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNICEF.
Education enables a person to achieve a better job or means of self-employment, and climb out of intergenerational poverty. It cultivates cultural values and beliefs in the child. Once the awareness to send students regularly to the school continues, slow but sure results will follow.
Significant progress towards ending child labour requires increased investment in universal social protection systems, as part of an integrated and comprehensive approach to tackle the problem. Children belong in schools not workplaces. Child labour deprives children of their right to go to school and reinforces intergenerational cycles of poverty. Child labour acts as a major barrier to education, affecting both attendance and performance in school.
The continuing persistence of child labour and exploitation poses a threat to national economies and has severe negative short and long-term consequences for children such as denial of education and undermining physical and mental health.
Teachers and others in the education system can be frontline supporters to protect children and motivate them to enter the school and shunt child labour. The Society also requires broader changes in public policy to empower families to choose education over exploitative labour.
(The author is a regular contributor to ‘Kashmir Vision’. He can be reached at [email protected])



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