Based on the interviews conducted by Killid’s journalists in ten provinces of the country (Helmand, Uruzgan, Kandahar, Nimroze, Herat, Badghis, Ghor, Khost, Nangarhar and Kabul), obviously, most of the children have to do heavy work and miss school due to poverty and having no guardians.
According to international laws, hard and heavy work that harms children’s conceptual and physical growth and obstructs children’s education is prohibited.
Afghanistan’s labor law prohibits children under the age of 18 of doing heavy work, despite; children do heavy work in Afghanistan’s needy society.
Experts say that it is the duty of governments and international organizations to prevent child labor and strengthen the family economy by implementing various programs.
War End, Not Poverty!
Children and their family members in Helmand told our reporter that they were freed of war, however poverty still gripped them.
According to their opinions, there has been no war for the past two years, but poverty, unemployment and having no guardians have forced families to do heavy work on children.
45-year-old Abdul Kareem, a resident of Nad Ali district, Helmand, says that if government provides him a job, he will never work on children. “We are obliged to make these children work with us, so if we are not obliged then send these children to school.”
The teacher, Mohammad Wali, says that he made his 11-year-old son on heavy work because teaching salary is not enough. “Now, the prices of everything in the city are three times higher, so people have obligation.”
Mohammad Hussain, 11-year-old son of Wali Mohammad, carries heavy loads of people in a Solar wheat flour mill, confirms his father’s poverty and says that life problems made him worker in the mill. “I have been working in this mill since two years. What I do, we are obliged. My legs and body feel pain at night.”
10-year-old Noor Ahmad works in a car workshop, says that he does not have anyone for their support, if he does not work, they will remain starving. “Family supporting is on me. If I don’t struggle, there is no one to take care our feeding.”
Seeking Sustenance in Farms and Bricks
Beside heavy work in the city, working in forms and kilns of brick is another heavy burden on the shoulders of children of Helmand, Nangarhar and Khost.
12-year-old, Ehsanullah says that he harvests cotton every year in Kariz area of Helmand and earns 100 to 120 AFs daily. “Family demands oil, flour and other things, I have quited education.”
17-year-old, Shafiqullah works in a kiln of Surkh Rud district, Nangarhar, says that he earns food by making bricks.
“I have been making bricks for 7 years. We are obliged, if we do not make bricks then what to do? We are afraid that if we stop making bricks, we will be died of hunger.”
10-year-old, Shamsul-Rahman from Gurbuz district of Khost says that he goes to the kiln at 6 o’clock in the morning and makes bricks until late afternoon. “I make bricks, fill up mold and make it empty there. We are obliged, we don’t have money, it’s hard, but we work here.”
12-year-old, Usmanullah, resident of Tani district, his father has died and is the guardian of his family, no other choice is left for him. “I am told at home to bring flour, there is no other thing, it’s poverty.”
Deprivation of Labor Children of Education
In contrast, most of children engaged hard work and earn food for their families, say that they are missed of schooling due to poverty, otherwise they are very hopeful to study.
Amir Mohammad, a resident of Ghor, who works in a solar making shop, says that he has stopped studying for providing of food. “I earn 20-30 AFs and I take dry food home with the money. I don’t have time to study.”
Ahmed is a resident of Herat city. He says that he stopped schooling due to economic problems and sells fruit juice on road side.
“I am obliged to work. My father went to Iran and says that there is no work. He owes 9 million Toman. I have four brothers and one sister. I earn 100 to 150 Afs daily.”
Ahmad Bilal, a resident of Nimroze, says that his study has left in 8th grade and he is obliged to work. “I studied until the eighth grade. Since one year, my brothers and I have been forced to work.”
These children hope Islamic Emirate to provide them work and occupation in such a way that they can fulfill their needs and also study.
Child’s Mental and Physical Growth
Alternatively, experts say that if government and aid agencies fail to prevent child labor and promote alternative jobs, a large number of children will suffer from mental and physical disabilities due to heavy work.
Dr. Mohammad Wali Himmat, a specialist of mental, neurological and psychological diseases, says that if children are made to do hard and heavy work continuously and permanently, it affects their mental capacity and can delay their physical growth.
“Hard work has a negative effect on children, such food and materials that are related to children’s life also have a negative effect on the height, body and growth of children.”
Dr. Abdul Mateen Faizi, a specialist in internal medicine, says that children often suffer from breathing and infectious diseases and malnutrition due to unsuitable working conditions, and sometimes they become addicted to drugs.
“Childhood is the age of physical and mental growth, however when they do heavy work, they are not fed properly, they become malnourished, and get other breathing and infectious diseases and they are affected by other actions in society, if someone takes drugs or smokes cigarettes. They also get addicted to it.”
Heavy Work and Labor Laws of Child
Oppositely, critics say that according to national and international laws, all heavy and hard works that harm children’s intellectual and physical growth and prevent children’s education are prohibited.
Nimatullah Himmat, a social affairs expert, says that child labor can at least reach to Afghanistan’s labor law and international conventions.
“Legally, children under the age of 18 are not required to be encouraged to work by family leaders.”
In addition, Article 22 of the Law on the Support of Children’s Rights in 2017 states that “any kind of economic exploitation of a child is prohibited.” Also, in Article 63 of the same law, it is emphasized with reference to the labor law that “According to the provisions of the labor law, hiring of young people for physical, heavy, harmful to health and underground work… is prohibited.”
What Is the Solution and What Should Be Done?
The critics say that the government should avoid children of doing heavy work through creating alternative opportunities and provide them educational opportunities.
Ahmadullah Wolesmal, a legal affairs expert, says that along with government, child support institutions should also help the families of those who employ their children in heavy works. Wolesmal adds that if attention is paid to this issue, hundreds of thousands of children will study. “Supportive bodies should pay attention to children in Afghanistan, pay attention to their rights and aspects of life, and for their better life, educating children and freeing them from hard work.”
Qudos Khatibi, a social affairs expert, says that if investment in economic programs is done for families and adults become employed, children will be freed from heavy work.
“When there is no work in a country and the family does not have a good economy and adults are unemployed, there is no doubt that children will turn to work because of necessity.”
Ismatullah Noorzad, Civil activist says that if poverty is prevented and families are given public awareness, the cause of child labor will disappear. “Poverty is a major cause of child labor. Although, education is important for the people of society, unfortunately the conditions are so bad that even children are forced to work for food.”
Governmental officials say that they are trying to help the labor children and provide them vocational training.
Abdullah Suri, Herat Labor and Social Affairs Sub-director, says that every year, vocational training to 1,500 children and young people is provided.
“We have training programs every month. We try implementing these programs in different areas and districts of the city.”
Torjan Khademi, director of Badghis Labor and Social Affairs, says that 2400 labor and street children are being trained in 24 skill and vocation centers.
“We gather labor children in Badghis, make it easy for them to go school and study, and provide their families sewing, carpet weaving and poultry farming small businesses.”
Mullah Nasrullah Ansar, Ghor Labor and Social Affairs Director, says that 50 orphans were enrolled in schools by the help of UNICEF last year.
“The engaged children’s number in heavy work is high. The training school of Department of Labor and Social Affairs is inactive. We have not been able to function this training school yet.”
Maulawi Rahimullah Mukhlis, Helmand Labor and Social Affairs Director, says that regional centers have been set up in 8 districts for the purpose of educating children, where 100 children are given family-related education in each district.
He adds that monthly meetings for the heads of children’s families are held and people are given public awareness about children’s rights.
“We hold monthly meetings related to children’s problems, and in addition to this, we convey the voices of children who are facing problems to the authorities of the government agencies.”
Alternatively, Amir Sahib Jan Haqqani, Director of Khost Labor and Social Affairs, says that they have talked to various institutions about children’s education who are engaged in hard work.
“We have implemented programs with various institutions for the education and training of these children, as well as for their family’s livelihood… In future, 474 children and young will be provided vocational training.”
Maulawi Faridullah Haqqani, director of labor and social affairs of Nangarhar, says that according to their survey, almost 2081 children were engaged in heavy work in 47 brick kilns, and some of them were saved from this situation by us.
“Approximately 2,081 labor children were engaged in heavy work in 47 brick kilns. Now, that level has decreased, we have provided small businesses to 150 families.”
Despite all, Samiullah Ebrahimi, spokesperson of Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, says that more than 10,000 orphans and children having no guardian are kept in 34 Emirate training schools across the country.
He also adds, this ministry has submitted more than 2,200 children to their families who were deported from foreign countries: “Those children who were lost or separated from their families for any other reasons and live on the streets. The children are brought and kept until reunited with their families.”
Exact Number of Labor Children
Although, there are no exact number related labor children, Statistics and Information Authority’s data says that nearly 20% of children are engaged in heavy work. Asmatullah Hakimi, professional assistant of this authority, says that based on their latest survey, most of this percentage is made up of rural children.
“From 5-17 years old, 19.4% of our children are engaged in heavy work. If we look at it in terms of age, 22.9% of children from 5-11 years old are working and 24.4% of children from 12-14 years old are working. If we observe on the level of urban and rural areas, in villages 22.3% and in cities 10.7% of children are engaged in heavy work.”
On the occasion of International Child Labor Day (June 12), Ramin Behzad, head of International Labor Organization, said that according to the survey of 2020 and 21 years, about one million and 60 thousand children were engaged in hard and heavy work.
Meanwhile, he added that he does not have the exact number of labor children due to recent changes, however it is assumed that this number may have increased.
Head of International Labor Organization also asked all the international and government institutions to renew their commitment in struggle against child labor, bright future of Afghan children can be created in better conditions.
Translated by Muhammad Yousuf “Zakir”Follow TKG on Twitter & Facebook