Before we move on to such ambitious projects, which of course are necessary, we must give priority to eradicate at least a major percentage of child labor. This can only be achieved through children’s education. According to research, the main reason behind the rising number of underage children working as contract laborers and beggars in organized and unorganized sectors is poverty. Children have been seen as bread earners at an age where they should be learning or playing. It has been found that nearly 80% of child labor is due to poverty, where the children work in unfriendly conditions to supplement the earnings of the family.
It is no surprise that lack of education is the main factor in increasing cases of child labor. When parents cannot afford their daily needs, how can they meet the cost for education? It really is a catch-22 situation. If the family’s basic financial condition improves then the parents will not hesitate in sending their children to school or educating them. Therefore, it is good to talk about empowering children through education, but the first problem should be to alleviate the poverty. It is only when the poor or the socially backward class can find a way to afford educational costs, they will contemplate on their children’s education.
Once the poverty aspect is taken care of, then the poor children can be educated. Only through education, can the children be encouraged to take decisions for themselves. Therefore, poverty alleviation and a good education to the poor children should be one of the country’s major priorities. These children are the future, and only through education will their decisions have positive effect on the country. Obviously, both quality of work and quality of living will also improve. In short, a chance to education will allow these kids a better future.
In order to eradicate or fight this problem, there should be support and contributions from all part of the social strata. This would help the country to at least tackle the problem, let alone change it overnight. There have been steps taken to provide free education to socially disadvantaged kids and encouraging the parents to send their children to school. There have been sufficient awareness campaigns but have they really conveyed the message that they should. Have there been sufficient funds allocated to child health and development? Has the state been involved in such programs?
However, there have been sufficient steps taken by United Nations (UN) organizations such as the UNICEF in introducing several steps against child labor. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) and other social organizations have also supported them. It has become evident from the researches done by NGOs that in most cases, young girls are made to work, while boys are allowed to study. This perception needs to be changed. These community organizations need to focus more on empowering these young, socially disadvantaged girls.
These NGOs have helped street children through education, rehabilitation, and re-integration and have also provided formal and non-formal education. We should also contribute our bit to these NGOs through donation or by offering our services. Although these NGOs have done their bit on trying to tackle different problems concerning child labor, it is time that India did something.
The idea should be to initiate a specific education program where children from economically and socially backward families, will have access to free education and free food. They should also be provided with other basic items, such as clothes, books, stationary and other convenience items free of charge. Trust and charitable organizations should come forward to support any such child related development programs promoted by the government.
Many organizations promote literacy and education by running schools in the slum and rural areas for poor children in India. A recent report from the World Bank says that children with disabilities are five times more likely to be out of school compared to the average child. Most likely, in every society, children with disabilities are generally excluded from opportunities for an education. This is another area that should be looked into.
A rural India in 2006 in which
- Close to half the children in grade 1 could not recognize numbers or letters,
- Almost half the children in grade 2 couldn’t read a grade 1-level text fluently,
- Almost half the children in grade 2 couldn’t do a 2-digit subtraction confidently,
- About half the children in grade 5 couldn’t read a grade 2-level text easily,
- About half the children in grade 5 couldn’t do a simple division problem
Has changed to a situation in 2009 [where the proposed target was 100 million children];
- Most grade 1 children know at least the alphabet and numbers,
- Most grade 2 children can read at least simple words and do simple sums,
- Most grades 3-5 children can at least read simple texts fluently and solve arithmetic problems confidently
While achieving the above can be considered a beginning, the real purpose is not served until there are targeted efforts to ensure that disabled children are also included.
In short, education really is the key.