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This series of remarkable essays was researched and written by students of Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan School, Karachi, Pakistan in January 2000. Click on the title in this list to go to each essay:

| Dilemma of the Innocents | The Story Of Ali |

| Why Are They Different? | How much of Child Labour? | Golden Gift | Childhood Memories? |

| Child Labour-What is being done? | Child Labour | Camel Boys | Child Labour In Pakistan |

| Child Labour | Child Labour: A Curse For Any Nation | Child Labour and Islam | Broken Soul |

Dilemma of the Innocents

This article is not meant to entertain. It is about those children who live on the streets. Those children who give up their innocence for a scrap of bread. Street children are ignored because we pass them by and forget we ever saw their plight. A fleeting moment of plight and then it's all over. Do you know the name of the child picking garbage and loitering around Hassan Square in Gulshan-e- Iqbal? When the traffic pauses as the light switched to red they ran towards cars and try to sell their ware, newspaper, magazines, small towels, US visa lottery forms and flowers. Our callous minds don't pause to think why these children are not in school.

The international labour organisation claims the urban informal sector is the largest employer of child labour. Working children contribute Rs.1500 per month as average income to their families.

Reasons include poverty and lack of education. Both these factors depend directly on myopic government policies and demand management techniques. In a report by Dr.Mehboob-ul-Haq entitled Human Development In South Asia 1997, he writes: Far more crippling than income poverty is the poverty of basic human capabilities, which prevents people from taking advantage of market opportunities. Compared to the capability poverty, there are only 34 million income poor people in Pakistan.

The Employment of Children Act 1991 prohibits the employment of children in certain occupations and regulates the condition of work for children. Although the Act protects against economic exploitation of children it does not clearly whether this includes children who works on the streets. It also lacks a proper definition as to who is a child: Is a child supposedly below 14 years of age, or above 15 or 18? Pakistan signed the UN Convention for the rights of the child in 1991 which says that "No child must be arrested for a crime", but in Pakistan this is never implemented. Children as young as four, toil on streets because their parents do not have well-paying jobs and their income must be supplemented. Many are unemployed or addicted to drugs making them incapable of any work. Pakistan has tried to take the rapid GDP growth development approach, not realising that social development must move in tandem with GDP growth.

The 12 million children in the labour force will grow up to be physically, socially, morally and intellectually under developed and remain deprived individuals.

It was viewed with a mixture of indifference, apathy and even cynicism this was in part due to ignorance; and that child labour was accepted as a natural phenomenon. Parents believe that the only option left for them to combat poverty is to permit their children to assume the role of the Bread-winner. Their hair is a nameless gray brown, eyes pale and empty nails black with grime, dirty bare feet, tended faces for skinny bodies.

They barter their carefree days to buy food for the family. A five year old child sells plastics combs near the Bahadurabad traffic signal. Weary as he is, one wonders how this tiny child even crosses the road he has a widowed mother and a younger sister to support. He has to come out on to the streets to earn a living for the family although he has an elder sister.

Many of these street children have large families, ranging from 4 to 8 siblings. They have a feeling of being unwanted. The only way for them to survive is to accept what comes their way including the injustice and rejection. Many children on the streets dislike beggary. Although their brazen selling some times borders on shoving thing down one's throat. Almost all have a sense of responsibility and a strong desire to share the financial burden.

An 18 year old says he has being selling flowers for the past five years but is now tired of working on the street "the people I try to sell flowers say muaff karo as if I am begging for alms. I don't beg. I have despised begging all my life but this with remark; I am reduced to that despicable status. When I was a kid it didn't hurt that much but now it does. I am so fed up with this humiliation that I am willing to kill someone but not sell flowers."

There is no happily after to this story because it was not a fairy tale to begin With. These children are not living but just surviving. Their nameless and faceless existence will always surround us. It is about these children that the Nobel laureate poet from Chile, Gabriel Mistral has said:

We are guilty of many errors and many faults,
But our worst crime is abandoning the children,
Neglecting the fountain of life.
Many of things we need can wait,
The child cannot wait.
Right now is the time his bones are being formed,
His blood is being made,
And his senses are being developed.
To him we cannot answer "Tomorrow",
His name is "Today"

Salma Mansoor
Bushra Raza
Sadia Meer
Grade 8
Age 12

Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan School-Karachi
Pakistan

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The Story Of Ali

In a certain village in Pakistan, a door of a house opened, a shadow came outside, a little boy aged twelve years, with tears in his eyes saw his house for the last time and came out of the lane. Sometime before his stepfather has slapped him and he tried to forget he pain and humiliation of that slap.

At the end of the dirt lane he sat on a donkey cart and requested the owner of the cart towards the railway station. Before leaving the house he had stolen some money from his mothers purse. He is now on his own does not know where he is going!!

14 years old Shoib, comes from a big city his family is very poor and there were many mouths to feed. He is always being pushed by his mother to go find out work and bring some money home. One day in an angry and frustrated mood he is turned out from his own house by the third wife of his father ……….

One…. Two…..three the number of these street children never ends with sad stories behind each one. This continues all the time in this country. On every railway station one can see a handful of children who are forced to run from their houses. Their scared faces tell the story.

Children are the gifts from God. Just think what we are doing to them. Have anyone ever though what may happen to them. Some heartless people smuggle them to other countries and cut them down for their body part to earn money…….!!!!

Maria Mirza
12 years
Grade-7
Teacher: Adila Salman
Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan School-Karachi
Pakistan

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Why they Are Different?

Every day early in the morning when we are heading for our schools. We see many children around the bus stops jumping and singing towards their schools. They have had delicious breakfast, wearing clean uniforms have a bag full of colourful books.

Just close to the bus stop is some garbage dumping points where one can see many young and innocent children but dirt on faces clad in torn clothes with a big dirty bag on their back picking pieces of paper and putting in their bags to sell for some money so they an feed themselves and their families.

Both these groups of children are innocent entitled to play eat, study and enjoy they live in same city and country but why they are different?

Amber Abdullah
Age 12+
Grade- 7
Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan School-Karachi
Pakistan

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How much of Child Labour

The proportion of child labour has taken up a situation of an epidemic in Pakistan. Statistics are unreliable but the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has estimated last year the number of Pakistani working children to be realistically in the range of 11-12 million. At least half of these children are under the age of ten. Despite a recent series of laws prohibiting child labour children make up a quarter of the unskilled work force of Pakistan and can be found in virtually every factory and workshop or field.

Zohra Barkat
12 years
Grade: 7
Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan School-Karachi
Pakistan

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Golden Gift

Children are the "Golden Gift' of God
Don't misuse them
They have a charming personality
They have lots of ability
Don't spoil it.
They are the rose of the garden,
the future of our country
Do not crush them.
Do not appreciate when a child labours
do not make them cry and work for long hours.

This is their age of studying, playing and running after butterflies we should care for their bright future.

They are the symbol of success for tomorrow's Pakistan.

Kismat S and Hina Tajuddin
Ages 12 years
Grade- 7
Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan School-Karachi
Pakistan

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Childhood Memories?

I do not remember early days of my childhood. But I still remember my Fifth birthday. My parents celebrated it and many relatives and friends were invited. I also got many gifts.

When I was six years old I was sent to a school. I remember on that day sweets were distributed to students of my class. I see many children around me who are poor, walking on the street, working in auto repair shops and teastalls. I think do they ever went to a school? Once I asked some they have never been to schools but think about being in one. What will they remember when they grow up? Have they ever celebrated their birthdays, do they share the joys of learning with parents, teachers and friends.

Ages 12 years
Grade- 7
Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan School-Karachi
Pakistan

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Child Labour-What is being done?

Every child has a right to study but most of the children have responsibility of their poor families. It is our responsibility to stop this child labour and should create some centres which could provide free education, clothing and food. The government is establishing a pilot programme of 18 rehabilitation centres for "Former Child Labour". Each centre educates 60-110 children and also providing money to their families by donation and funds.

Now let us all promise to help these children and put a stop to child labour in Pakistan so tomorrow each Pakistani child enjoys school and a carefree life.

Dania Siddiqui
age 12 years
Grade: 7
Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan School-Karachi
Pakistan

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Child Labour

Child labour is a major problem of our country. UN Convention detail about child labour, it has clearly said that the children under 18 years of age are not allowed to work, it is government responsibility to provide them education and basic needs.

As other developed countries child labour in Pakistan can not be finished so easily because the government is unable to provide the basic facilities and eduction therefore these children are forced to work otherwise they will die with hunger.

Pakistan with the help of ILO and UNICEFF have made convention on the rights of children and made rules for some sectors where children are working to provide them hazard free work environment, educational, health and recreational facilities so they do not miss the simple pleasure of childhood.

On a personal level one of us who employ domestic workers should create opportunities of education and basic needs for kids. We must give them extra books, clothes and toys other then their wages.

If we want to stop chid labour completely we must provide jobs to their parents or a source of income. If children are not given job neither their parents then these children would end up as beggars, thieves or gun runners.

Government should take serious actions for solving this problem which is difficult but not impossible.

Faiza Ashraf
age 12 years
Grade; 7
Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan School-Karachi
Pakistan

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Camel Boys

In 1992 the Human Rights Commission researched and found that many Pakistani boys between the ages of 4-10 are sold to the sports-loving Shaikhs of Gulf countries to be used as jockeys or camel boys in camel races. The HRCP found that:
*It was a thriving business
*That mostly parents themselves sold their children out of their poverty.
*Influential personalities of Makran (a region of Pakistan) were involved in the traffic. One estimate put the average yearly flow of children is over 6000.

Samrah, Fatima, Sumaiyya, Maria, Zara, Hafsa
Ages 12+
Grade- 7
Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan School-Karachi
Pakistan

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Child Labour In Pakistan

Child Labour is great problem of our country which is yet not solved properly. Although government had made some rules and regulations but failed to stop it completely. In our country children help their parents to earn money in many ways. Some children work in factories, some polish shoes work in fields. Government of Pakistan has not taken a strict action against this yet. It is not possible to put a ban at child labour instantly because many family members of these children are dependent on their earnings.

But something must be thought and planned for these child labours before we rob their entire childhood joys.

Nazish Anwer
Age 12+
Grade: 7
Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan School-Karachi
Pakistan

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Child Labour

Children is one of the worst problems of the underdeveloped countries. According to UNICEFF all children under 12 years have right to take education, play and are not to work for their livelihood. But in underdeveloped countries where poverty is a major problem parents of poor children do not afford the expense of their children's' education and expect them to work for supporting the family income.

In Pakistan government has taken some major steps to end child labour. They have received funds from UNICEFF to open new schools in poor areas of the country, provide children with books and uniforms.

Government has also banned child labour by law. Inspectors have been appointed to check and give reports on child labours. These steps are expected to increase the rate of educated people and reduce the number of children forced to work out of poverty.

Mehvish Iqbal
Age 12
Grade: 7
Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan School-Karachi
Pakistan

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Child Labour A Curse For Any Nation

Children are gifts of god and beauty of our earth however the problem of children working as labours is a big problem of most of the underdeveloped countries. Children in Pakistani cities work in carpet weaving industries, auto workshops as mechanics, factories worse of all they are hired as domestic servants. As domestic servants they suffer a lot even physical abuse including beating and humiliations.

The Pakistani Government has so far failed to remove this curse from our nation. International and National agencies have raised hue and cry for children's' rights but failed to stop completely. Pakistan economic condition is a great hurdle in stopping child labour completely.

Most of these children worker are unable to continue their studies or have any kind of fun in their lives. We need to at least create opportunities for these children so they get basic education and are treated with respect and love when hired as domestic support. If each well off family in Pakistan takes responsibility of one child we can save the childhood and future of many children.

Feroza A Rahim
Age 12
Grade: 7
Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan School-Karachi
Pakistan

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Child Labour and Islam

Labour means work, for which we get some return. Sometimes it is in the form of wages.

We are Muslims so we must find out what Quran (the holy book) guides us about work. In many places in the Holy Quran there are orders about working. And it is also mentioned by Holy Prophet Mohamed Mustufa clearly that:
" The man who does hard work is the friend of God"

But Holy Quran never guides that a child should labour and provide food to his/her parents, brothers or sisters.

Quran says that Muslims should help orphans, homeless and poor children from their own money and properties till their age of working.

1400 years ago it was planned by all Muslims under the guidance of Holy Prophet that there should be charity funds for orphans, widows, poor and needy children so that these children may not be forced to work. That was a law and also a duty by virtue of being a member of Islamic community and a member of Islamic State.

In the era of Caliph Hazrat Umer charity funds were distributed openly to very needy child.

"It is also one of the rights given to the children by United Nations, which is as under " The state's obligation is to protect children from engaging in work that constitutes a threat to their health, education or development………"

Islam has given us a concept of a welfare state but the deteriorating social and economic conditions in Pakistan is a great barrier in saving the future of the child labourers.

Hina Ahmed
Age 13 years
Grade: 8
Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan School-Karachi
Pakistan

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Broken Soul

Unfortunate child forced to labour,
He cannot become a reader or a leader.

Working would be the aim of his life,
and his emotions would be slashed by a knife.

Education is a never fulfilling wish of his life,
and fun is just a dream.

Disappointment is his future
his innocent heart and soul is broken forever.

Ambreen Badruddin
13 years
Grade: 8
SULTAN MOHAMED SHAH AGA KHAN SCHOOL-KARACHI
PAKISTAN
31st December 1999

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Inspired by the work of the Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan School students, Ghada, a student at Bshamoun School, Lebanon, interviewed a laboring child. Read the interview.


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