Stop kidding about child rights and educate them, argue experts -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Stop kidding about child rights and educate them, argue experts

KARACHI: Child labour is here to stay in society, argued several experts at a seminar on Saturday, but that does not mean that they should not get help from the government and NGOs to learn skills or go to school.

The British Council in collaboration with the British Alumni Association Karachi Chapter organized the seminar on “Child Rights: Are we doing enough?” to bring together government and non-government organizations to share their observations and experiences in Pakistan, discuss challenges and explore possibilities for synergy in pursuit of a common cause.

British Council Provincial Director Syed Mashood Rizvi said that a child must be given the means for normal development, both materially and spiritually, and must be put in a position to earn a livelihood, and be protected against every form of exploitation.

Children’s Museum for Peace and Human Right (CMPHR) Director Zulfiqar Ali pointed out that the relationship between an adult and a child in our society is that of a colonizer and the colonized. He was highly critical of the market that used 80 million children. CMPHR has initiated a project with assistance from the past government to build a museum for children from all social classes, where they can interact and share ideas, experiences and learn about societal values. “Today the value system that we teach our children is the corporate value system,” he regretted.

Sindh Education Foundation Director Anita Ghulam Ali said that the conditions in which children work are a bigger problem then child labour itself. Instead of demonizing the idea of working children, it is their circumstances that need to be addressed as in many cases the children are the sole breadwinners of their families. She also informed the audience that an experiment to give stipends to these children and stopping them from working had failed. “So what we need now is to create a space for these children to learn a skill while they work so that they could improvise themselves.”

Students from the ‘Children Development Center’, a project of the Sindh Education Foundation, were present. One of them, Mohammad Nadeem, who was not sure of his age but put it at 14 years, said that he had to quit his madrassa because he could not pay the 300-rupee fee and now works at a lathe machine workshop. He works nine hours a day and after work goes to the development center where he learns Mathematics, English, Computers and other subjects. He said that he chooses to go to the development center because he wants a better future: “If we study now then we will make something of ourselves, if not than everything would be the same,” he told Daily Times.

Another student is 17-year-old Kamran Ilyas, a motorcycle mechanic who is in eighth grade at the development center. He told Daily Times that one of the incentives was that he could get a free medical checkup there. “Not many people in my area go to school. I know a lot of kids from work who quit their studies in order to support their families.”

UNICEF Child Protection Specialist, Mannan Rana, Society for the Protection of the Rights if the Child (SPARC) Promotion Manager, Abdul Salam Dharejo and Save the Children UK Child Labour Education Project Director, Nisar Nizamani were also part of the panel.

The seminar was held in partnership with Sindh Education Foundation, CMPHR, UNICEF, SPARC, and Save the Children, UK. They had set up stalls and distributed their publications. Faculty members and children from the SOS village-Karachi, Zindagi Trust, Manzil Education Organization, Sindh Education Foundation and Karachi Vocational Training Centre attended.

Sindh Madrassa Board member Prof Shaista Effendi-Rais praised the event for giving the debate a “wider perspective”. “However, what we should consider is the applicability of this international slogan of child rights to our culture, apply it and adopt it,” she said. “A child in a shalwar kameez holding a gun is a militant and the same child dressed up is an army officer.”

Dr Shahid Siddiqui and Sumbul Munir from the British Alumni Association of Pakistan also spoke about what their body does as a representative body of graduates from British universities.
Source: Daily Times
Date:2/24/2008