The complicated issue of child labour is a developmental issue that needs to be thoroughly researched. World Vision India believes that children are being exploited and forced into labour, if they are not attending any school regularly and there is a need to develop a strong strategy to address this issue.
India continues to host the largest number of child labourers in the world today. According to the Census 2001, there were 12.7 million economically active children in the age-group of 5-14 years. The number was 11. 3 million during 1991 (Population Census) thus showing an increase in the number of child labourers.
Education is one of the critical element of any effective attempt to purge child labour. There are a number of factors that leads to a particular child to become a child labourer.
The child labour and education is strongly inter-linked. According to National Human Rights Commission of India, child labour can never be eradicated unless compulsory primary education up to the age of 14 is implemented.
In this paper, the author attempts to deal with the causes of child labour in India? How do governmental policies affect it? What role does education play in regard to child labour in India? The current state of education in India has been examined and how it is contributing to child labour. A critical analysis of the answers to these questions may lead in the direction of a possible solution.
Definition of child labour
There is no single universally accepted definition of child labor.' Concepts and definitions are varied and sometimes vague. Some authors argue that child labor is such a complex phenomenon that a single definition that captures all its facets is simply not possible. Child labor is regarded as a social construct which differs by actors, history, context and purpose (Weston 2005).
Basically, the child laborers are the child workers involved in the odd jobs that are harmful to their overall development. These children are economically active and play a role in contributing to the family income.
World Bank describes child labor as a serious threat' from the point of view of the harm it can do to long term national investment (Weston 2005). The ILO relates the phenomenon to the harm done to children by their current engagement in certain types of economic activity. UNICEF emphasizes that the issue goes way beyond the concerns of investment or its relation to economic activity, and includes several aspects of domestic work which conflicts with the best interest of the child (Huebler 2006).
Poverty as the reason for low school participation?
Child labour is closely associated with poverty. Many poor families are unable to afford school fees or other school costs. The family may depend on the contribution that a working child makes to the household's income, and place more importance on that than on education. And when a family has to make a choice between sending either a boy or girl to school, it is often the girl who loses out.
"Most child labour is rooted in poverty. The way to tackle the problem is clear. We must ensure that all children have the chance of going to school, we need social protection systems that support vulnerable families particularly at times of crisis and we need to ensure that adults have a chance of decent work. These measures, combined with effective enforcement of laws that protect children, provide the way forward", Ms Thomas, Director of the ILO's International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) said.
It is commonly believed that the demand for school education is low because of the large scale poverty in our country. This notion has been discussed in various forums that the poor parents cannot afford to send their children to school because they cannot miss the income of their children as wage workers or household help.
It is widely agreed that the main forces driving child labour are poverty and lack of education (Basu et al., 2009; Ravallion and Wodon, 2000). Children are a financially viable source of labour for poor parents, so it is no surprise when one finds children involved in some level of domestic labour in rural economies (Ravallion and Wodon, 2000). With the assumption that child labour and schooling are substitutes, greater labour opportunities may be drawing children out of school at an early age. As a result, this may be further contributing to intergenerational poverty (Ravallion and Wodon, 2000).
Poverty has been the most common explanation given for lack of school attendance and greater incidence of child labour (Jensen and Nielson, 1997; Basu et al., 2009; Ravallion and Wodon, 2000). The decision to send a child to work is closely linked to whether they are sent to school. Parents in poor households may be less likely to enrol their children in schooling even though the long-run impact of schooling may deter them from future poverty. Sometimes households simply cannot afford it despite how altruistic the parents may be.
In the case of large families, being born early in the birth order may have significant advantages, as the probability of being in a small family is much higher (Patrinos and Psacharopoulos, 1997). Large households have the advantage of diversifying their tasks. Therefore, birth order and gender may play an integral role in determining who goes to school and who does not. Older children may be required to substitute for the parent in the labour force or in the household (Patrinos and Psacharopoulos, 1997), while younger children may be more likely to attend school.
Apart from the income of the family other factors play an important role in the decision of parents to send their children to school or to work. Experience shows that the exclusion of certain groups, existing social norms, tradition, parental ignorance, indifference from the government and no education system (or a badly run education system) are the some of the other determinants for parents not to send their children to school. According to Shantha Sinha, director of the MV Foundation, child labour exists in communities where: there is no tradition to send children to schools and little social pressure to be able to do so; existing social norms accept child labour, parents do not have an alternative and employers take advantage of the situation; the educational system does not want to register and educate poor, lower class children.
Right to Education & the Child labour
Education helps in empowering people economically and socially; but the lack of access to quality education can lead to increased number of child labourers. As per the Right to Education bill, every child has the right to free and compulsory education upto 14 years of age which builds the foundation of one's life. It is our responsibility to give the school bags to these children rather than the rag bags and help them to get their right.
The linkage between child labour and education has been openly discussed but not yet applied at a policy level. Education as a main player in ending the child labour must come into the centre stage of all the child labour discussions. In the Millennium Development Goals the United Nations and the broader international community set targets of ensuring that by 2015 all boys and girls complete a full course of primary education and that there is gender parity in education.
These targets cannot be met unless the factors that generate child labour and prevent poor families from sending children to school are addressed. Among the most important steps required are:Implementation of free and compulsory education; Dealing with the barriers to girls education; Ensuring that children have access to a school which is child friendly and a safe and has quality learning environment; Making available accelerated education opportunities for children and youth who have so far missed out on formal schooling; Tackling with the nationwide shortage of professionally trained teachers; Raising public awareness to tackle child labour.
As per the Government records, about 12 million children are engaged in child labour and are out of school. Since April 1, 2010 education has become the right of every child in India but unfortunately, the Right to Education Act has not made any specific provision to bring the child labours back into regular school.
The Right to Education Act makes elementary education compulsory for 6-14 year old to improve the lives of children. But what about those children who are working as labourers, as domestic help?
Despite the fact that child labour is a huge obstacle to attain the goal of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and also to implement the right to education bill, the bill doesn't talk about the issue of child labour that how it would help in tackling this massive problem which is so deeply rooted in our communities that it is in fact a very difficult task to uproot it.
As a part of the civil society, we need to raise our voices to make the government realize that there is a need of the special packages for children who are working because RTE will be meaningful only if these children are brought into the fold of mainstream schooling.
Why is quality education so important?
Quality education offers the children an opportunity to think, make choices, take decisions and form their own opinion. The importance of basic education for all children is expressed in the combined mandate of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Child Labour Conventions 138 and 182 of the International Labour Organisations (ILO) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) aimed at the realisation of basic education for all children (boys and girls) by the year 2015. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, under the flagship of government of India, also aims to provide useful and relevant elementary education for all children in the age group of 6 14 years.
The elimination of child labour is interlinked with the provision of free, full-time, formal quality education. Experience shows that many children do not have a choice but to work because there are no good schools available or because they are not inspired to attend the school. The need of the hour is to bring some revolution in the area of school education to implement right to free and compulsory quality education to combat the child labour.
Building schools and enrolling children is not enough to retain these children in the schools. It is also essential to improve the quality of education in our schools to decrease the drop out rate and ultimately reduce the child labour incidences. One of the reasons of child labour is the poor quality of education. Children don't know how to read and write. There is lack of teachers and sometimes there are no teachers in the schools. If the teachers are there, they don't come to the school regularly because most of the teachers come from far off places and they don't want to stay in the village. So they come once in 2-3 months, put the attendance in the register and go back. Parents think that what is the use of sending our children to schools when there is no teacher in the school and therefore it's better to send them to work so that they can also contribute to the family income.
Besides poverty, poor quality of education is another contributing factor to child labour. On one hand we talk about the free and compulsory education for children but we ignore the fact that even if the schools are there, 100% children are enrolled but teachers don't come to the school. Parents send their wards to school but after sending regularly for some time they found that teacher doesn't come to the school and if s/he comes, s/he don't teach the children. Their children doesn't know how to read and write and do simple arithmetic, automatically they stopped sending their children to school. After some time, parents send their children to work since they are not attending the school and doing nothing. According to government data, there are approximately 440 million children population in India and out of it about 96% children are enrolled in schools but what about the 4% children who are left out. The table given below shows the quality of education in our schools th rough learning outcomes of children of I VIII classes.
Class-wise % of children who can read
Cannot read capital letters
Can read capital letters
Can read small letters
Can read simple words
Can read easy sentences
Source: ASER 2009
The above table shows that there are about 19.5% children who cannot read capital letters and only about 23.2% children can read easy sentences. It can be interpreted from the above data that the quality of education is very poor, as it can be seen that only 60.2% children, studying in VIII standard, can read simple sentences.
Class-wise % Children Who Can Do Arithmetic
11 - 99
Source: ASER 2009
The above table shows that there are only about 68.7% children in standard VIII who knows how to divide and children learn division in class III. Only about 20.8% children in class VIII, knows subtraction. The above data proves that the quality of education is poor. The government is focusing only on the enrolment but what about the issue of learning outcomes of children studying in different classes.
Class-wise % Children Attending Tuition Classes
Source: ASER 2009
The above table is showing the trend how children studying in government schools are attending the tuition classes to improve their learning outcomes.
Facilities in School
% school with
Classes I IV/V
Classes I VII/VIII
No facility of water
No facility of toilets
Source: ASER 2009
The above table clearly shows that how badly our schools lack these basic facilities. How can we expect children to sit for 5 6 hours without drinking water and without going for the toilet. The major problem is faced by the girls who are in elementary classes and because of lack of toilets majority of them dropped out from the school.According to Mr. Kapil Sibal, Union Minister of Human Resource Development; about 35% of schools in India do not have the toilets (The Hindu, 28/04/10).
Do parents realise the importance of education?
Many parents in rural areas are not aware of the importance of education. Some of the parents consider work a more natural activity than going to school. Therefore, it is very important to bring change in our culture and make it a social norm that child labour is offensive. Once traditional values have been broken, parents want their children to go to school. Experiences from India show that even the children from the poorest families are well aware of the changes education can offer to get out of the vicious cycle of poverty and ignorance.
A Real Over-comer
This is a story of a boy called Gomma Mahoto, who lives with his two younger brothers, a sister and his old mother Kali Mahoto in a village of Nunia Panchayat that falls in the forest area of Dumaria Block, which is almost unreachable.
His father died 11 years back when he was just 8 years old. Due to the severe poverty in which his family was living in, Gomma at such a young age used to work as a child labor in a hotel during the day time and in the evening, he used to spend his time in a nearby cycle repairing shop to gain some additional money for his family. He did not get discouraged by the situation he was in, but every time he wanted to challenge it bravely. He also had a dream about his future, he used to say "I will become an Engineer and he started attending classes in his village school along with his two brothers and sister and as soon as the school would finish would go to work in the hotel & cycle store for earning some money, as he had a deep concern for his family.
Through the Village Development Committee of Nunia village, the ADP extended help to Gomma mahoto in the way of Coaching classes and educational assistance. He completed his 10th std. examination(Matriculation) with 68.8% of marks and he also secured 100% in Mathematics. In Intermediate Course (I. Sc.) he has secured 1st Division with 70% marks. Now he pursuing B.Sc. Part 1 with Mathematics Honours. He also helps in conducting Tuition classes in his free time.
Gomma Mahoto has become a role model for the other children in the community. He was part of the team of children, who were earlier Child laborers and have now rehabilitated through various WV initiatives. He had an opportunity to meet and share his experiences to Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the then President of India in 2007. Looking at his past Gomma said, those who have a dream, always believe in doing things positively and in a different way.
Nothing is impossible until and unless you have a strong desire, which supports to make your way forward. Thanks to World Vision for the Support in building his future.
Gomma Mahoto along with the other former Child labourers is standing next to
Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, the former President of India
It has shown that if the children get the financial support, these parents make sure that their children go to and stay in schools. They no longer want their children to work. Instead of worrying about the lost income they invest more in their children from the belief that education is the means to offer them a better future ultimately.
Rasoi village of Birdha block, Lalitpur, UP, is one of the village where electricity has not reached. Shankarlal is 16year old student of 11th class of this village was not able to study in night so he had to study in sun light only, and he was very much worried about his marks. When he was in 10th class, he received solar light set from Aparajita ADP, World Vision India. Due to solar light system he was able to study in night & he passed 10th class exam with good marks. Now his life is totally changed, there is still no electricity in the village, so he started study classes in the evening time under the solar light. 35students are attending his classes regularly & paying Rs. 50/- each as fees. He is in the 11th class & he is able to continue his study on his own.
The private sector must play a major rule in inclusive education, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said while suggesting a slew of innovative measures to encourage the sector to provide education to the less privileged.
Government schools premises, he said, could be given to the private sector for conducting evening classes with 50 percent students from less privileged sections.
"Municipal and government schools can be given to the business class after school hours. You can run skill development centres or evening schools. Take 50 percent students from the less privileged class, government can pay their expense. Rest 50 percent can pay their fee" Sibal said while delivering the 38th Shri Ram memorial lecture here.
Describing human resource development as the most important factor for sustaining economic growth, Sibal said 70 percent of the working population was under qualified with no primary education.
It is essential to take a more active move towards child labour that includes child domestic labour also, by developing specific strategies, to be able to mainstream all children under the age of fourteen into schools.
Governments are responsible for the educational system and they should take up this responsibility. It is not only important that quality education is offered to children already in school. It is important that there is a need to develop a strategy to mainstream working and other non-school-going children below the age of fourteen into formal, full-time education.
It is also critical to establish a norm that work must never be a hindrance for children to attend school. As long as the community is accepting that children work instead of going to school, child labour and low school participation will not be eradicated. So there is a need to create the mass awareness about the importance of education and also that education is the right of every boy and girl.
ReferencesHuebler, Friedrich (2006), Child labor: What is wrong with published statistics?, "Something to think about" Bulletin no. 39 March 2006, Internal bulletin sponsored by Global Policy Section, Division of Policy and Planning, UNICEF New York. Weston, B. (2005), Child Labor and Human Rights: Making Children Matter. Lynne Rienner Publishers. Basu, Kaushik; "Child Labor: Cause, Consequence and Cure with Remarks on International Labor Standards," Journal of Economic Literature, September 1999.
_______; The Economics of Child Labor", Scientific American, October, 2003.
_______; "The Global Child Labor Problem: What do we Know and What Can we do", (with
Zafiris Tzannatos), World Bank Economic Review, 2003.Ravallion, M., and Wodon, Q. (2000), Does child labour displace schooling? Evidence on behavioural responses to an enrollment subsidy, The Economic Journal 110, C158-C175. Jensen, P., and Nielsen, H.S. (1997), Child labor or school attendance?: Evidence from Zambia, Journal of Population Economics 10, 407-424. Patrinos, H.A., and Psacharopoulos, G. (1997), Family size, schooling and child labor in Peru: An empirical analysis, Journal of Population Economics 10, 387-405.
iAutoblog the premier autoblogger software