Poverty fuels child labour in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Ishaq Khan

PESHAWAR: Asif Jan, an 11-year-old boy who dropped out of school, can be seen working with dirty hands in the automobile workshop in Shoba bazaar area of Peshawar city.

Asif Jan son of Bacha Jan, a resident of Tehkal area of provincial capital, started work as a labour in a workshop after his family was unable to complete the education expenses.

“I was studying in fourth class when I had to end my education because of poverty and joined the workshop as Shagird (student)”, Asif Jan said.

While answering to a question regarding the school fellows, “It is not my personal or family choice but the poverty compelled him to work in the automobile workshop instead of joining my friends in the schools”, little Asif Jan said this with a weird smile.

“The initial months of working in a workshop were very hard for me to adjust to in the environment as all my friends were going to school but now I am enjoying it and one day I will have my own workshop and lots of Shagird (students) will be working under my authority”, he laughed.

While contacting the Asif Jan’s father, Bacha Jan said that he is working as a daily wage worker with a contractor, in the past two three years he was struggling to fulfill the family needs, the situation forced him to pull out his children from school as he was even not been able to provide them the daily bread.

“Every parent wishes to send their children to schools with the aim to pursue a better and respectable career but unfortunately sometimes we have to take hard decisions for our survival”, Bacha Jan lamented.

Imran Takkar, a Child Rights Activist said that it is a hard reality that every time a world or family is facing a worse situation, the children will be the most affected part of the society.

Takkar claimed population growth, unemployment, poverty and lack of education facilities are some of the factors behind increase in child labour.

Around 3.3 million children are involved in child labour in Pakistan as per survey conducted by the Federal Bureau of Statistics, in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour, Manpower and Overseas Pakistanis and the ILO in 1996, but since then at no survey was conducted regarding child labour in Pakistan, Takkar said.

Takkar informed that in 2017 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa took initiative regarding child labour survey and despite allocation of funding but unfortunately the survey is still in pending.

He said that as per neutral sources and non-governmental data at least 20.5 million children are out of school including 10 million children are in labour.

He further shared that 1.1 million children were working as labour in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the 1996 survey however only registered firms and factories were included wherein street boys and agriculture sectors were not included.

“In 2017, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Education department conducted a survey in which they mention that 1.8 million children are out of school but the merged areas children were not included in it, if those children were included then the tally will reach 2.5 million” Imran told The Frontier Post.

Takkar informed that the state is responsible to provide the basic rights to the children as per the constitution of the country regarding the rights of the children in the constitution, he shared.

Article 11(3): No child below the age of 14 years shall be engaged in any factory or mine or any other hazardous employment.

Article 25(A): The state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as determined by law.

Ijaz Muhammad Khan, Deputy Director KP Child Protection and Welfare Commission said that the commission closely monitors the rights of children in the province and for this purpose the “Child Protection Units” was established in all districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

During the year 2022, “Child Protection Units” had registered 402 cases in the province and took prompt action against it to provide relief to victims’ children, Ijaz claimed.

He said that they registered 71 cases of sexual abuse, physical abuse, corporal punishment, missing, domestic labour and others in provincial capital followed by Mardan with 52 cases and Battagram was third with 48 cases. Kohat had 41 cases, Abbottabad 39, Charsadda 34, Swat 33, Chitral 22, Swabi 21, Dir 20, Buner 9 and Bannu 12 cases, adding that total 286 boys cases and 116 girls cases were reported in the province.

He added that the commission is responsible for protecting the children’s welfare and protection, adding that anyone can register complaints on 1121 and the commission will take strict action according to the law.

Everyone including (stakeholders, parents, and social societies) needs to play their role in safeguarding the children’s rights in the better interest of their future, he said.