By Rashmi Rajesh
Teacher: Mrs. Morgan
Abdul, a 12 year old boy spends most of his days on a rickety wooden boat on the murky waters of the Kholpetu River in Bangladesh. He catches 30-40 shrimp an hour and makes $0.01 for each one. This young boy is one of the 218 million children who are out of school and part of the nation’s army of child laborers. When I say working, I don’t mean your usual household chores like walking the dog or taking out the trash. Many of them work prolonged hours for pitiful wages in unhealthy, hazardous conditions. They are exploited and deprived of an education or a chance at a successful future. I personally think child labor should be abolished so children can be children and not bread-winners. Childhood is not the price you pay for poverty.
In El Salvador, harvest season in sugar plantations is in the fall just when school starts. Children aged eight to thirteen work in these plantations as cheap labor. They are forced to work with machetes and other sharp equipment for 9 hours each day in the sweltering sun. A teacher in a rural community estimated that 20% of her class did not attend school during harvest. Some children who want to attend school are driven into dangerous work conditions, as it is the only way their parents can afford their education.
The future of these kids is dismal, and instead of becoming productive adults they are guaranteed a lifetime of illiteracy and illness. Twenty to fifty million children under the age of 14 work in carpet making, glass blowing, firework, cigar, silk, and brick industries. Children usually work shifts and sometimes sleep at their workplaces. The majority of these places do not have proper ventilation, which leads to respiratory problems and cancer among these children. To make matters worse, there is no proper medical attention paid to these youngsters when they get injured.
Not only is their life on the line, but also their rights are violated. In a carpet industry located in Afghanistan, children as young as 5-6 years old are guarded behind closed doors around the clock to prevent them from running away. The parents sell their kids to these factories without the child’s consent. These children are threatened and are not likely to protest, as they are unaware of their rights. This is a major problem in developing countries.
No matter how tediously or long they work, these children will forever be stuck in that black storm cloud with no silver lining. In his poem, My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold, poet William Wordsworth wrote, “The Child is father of the Man.” His words suggest that children are important to the growth of society and the nation. Childhood is the time when children have to be kids and get a proper education. In order for children to lead a proper life they need to be literate, healthy, and able to execute their rights. The next time you purchase a can of soda or a bar of chocolate, do some research to find out whether or not children were used in the process of manufacturing them. As consumers we have the power to decide the fate of these children. It is in our hands now.
There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want, and that they can grow up in PEACE.
- Kofi Annan.