New York, Jun 13: The United Nations has announced it is marking the 2015 edition of the World Day Against Child Labour with a call for the international community to invest in quality education as a key step in the fight against child employment – a scourge that consumes over one hundred million children worldwide.
According to data from the UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO), an estimated 168 million children around the world between the ages of five and 14 work, many full-time and more than half in conditions deemed hazardous to their health, keeping them out of school and ensuring that their hopes for a more prosperous future remain unrealized.
“As things stand, the aspirations of many parents for their children and of children themselves for a decent education will remain unfulfilled dreams,” ILO Director-General Guy Ryder confirmed in his statement for the Day.
He said, “Many girls and boys have no chance to attend school. Some try to combine school and work, but all too often must drop out of school well before reaching the legal age of employment and become child labourers.”
Despite some dramatic improvements which have seen the total number of child labourers shrink by one-third since the year 2000, the situation on the ground nevertheless remains dire.
As a region, Asia and the Pacific still has the largest total numbers at 78 million but Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the region with the highest incidence of child labour with some 59 million, or over 21 per cent of the child population, engaged in work which, more often than note, entails long hours in agricultural and services industries.
Ryder noted that the child labour situation was also being further aggravated by the preponderance of conflicts and crises around the globe as schoolchildren, educational facilities, and teachers suffered undue hardships caused by flare-ups in violence.
With children fleeing the hostilities, added the ILO Director-General, they are often compelled to travel alone, embarking on paths that frequently lead to child labour and exploitation.
“Without adequate education, former child labourers are more likely than others to end up in poorly paid and insecure work as adults or to be unemployed. And there is a high probability that they will live in poverty and that their children will share the same fate,” he continued.
He said, “A collective challenge and responsibility is to enable all children, girls and boys, to have access to education, quality education. Second-class education perpetuates second-class citizens. We all know that a solid education and good teachers can make a world of difference to the lives and futures of children and young people.”
As the UN mobilizes to raise awareness on the issue, it is seizing the opportunity to review the reasons for the failure to reach development targets on education and rebooting with a series of new goals and strategies.
In particular, the Organization and its affiliates are pointing to three specific calls for action including the implementation of free, compulsory and quality education for all children at least to the minimum age for admission to employment and action to reach those presently in child labour; new efforts to ensure that national policies on child labour and education are consistent and effective; and policies that ensure access to quality education and investment in the teaching profession.
Joining the call for a greater global emphasis on child education, President of the General Assembly, Sam Kutesa, similarly urged Member States to imagine a world “in which every child attended school and nobody was forced to work against their will.”
“By pursuing increasingly successful, integrated approaches – treating not just the symptoms of child labour but also targeting its roots, we have made prevention the heart of our response,” Kutesa stated.
“I call on Member States to recognize that social protection is a right, one that is central to the task of ending child labour. We must work to ensure that children have access to basic resources including nutrition, health and education, so that they may fully realize their potential.”
Photo: International Labour Organization (ILO)