Against all odds

Name:David Coyle
Location:Vijayawada
Aiming for:Gold Award
About the Author:UCD Allumni

Against all odds

During our last week several of us had very bad stomach and intestinal issues. With many down for a few days (myself included) the productivity of the week was in doubt. During this time past students had come back to protest about the changes to care n shares management. With little to go on we weren’t sure what this meant for our project, the rally and the future of Care N Share. With the power and water turned off for the day, and the children locked in their houses the school turnout was very small. I got to teach some of the children in more detail and help work on their English and subject knowledge which was a hidden gem during that day. A child labour rally would be a huge focus during our time with care n share. The practice deprives children of their childhood, and is harmful to their physical and mental development. Poverty, lack of good schools and growth of informal economy are considered as the important causes of child labour in India. The child labour problem is not unique to India; worldwide, about 217 million children work, many full-time.This is according to “Child Labour – ILO”. ILO, United Nations. 2011.

 

UNICEF suggests that poverty is the biggest cause of child labour. The report also notes that in rural and impoverished parts of developing and undeveloped parts of the world, children have no real and meaningful alternative. Schools and teachers are unavailable. “Beyond Child Labour – Affirming Rights” (PDF). UNICEF. 2001.In India child labour is centered in the diamond industry, fireworks manufacture,silk manufacture, carpet weaving, domestic labour and mining. Companies including Gap,[19] Primark,[20] Monsanto[21] have been criticised for child labour in their products. The companies claim they have strict policies against selling products made by underage children, but there are many links in a supply chain making it difficult to oversee them all according to Bahree, Megha (3 October 2008). “Child Labor”. Forbes. Retrieved 22 October 2009.

With the uncertainty surrounding the possible protest fallout it was decided to not hold the protest in town. Not content to leave it there we organised the rally to take place between the school and orphanage campuses. We made posters with the children and gave a presentation and mini film series on the effects of child labour throughout the day. The children were great, they got really involved in poster making. Once the posters were done we had guest speakers from child welfare groups address the school. We marched between the campuses chanting, each taking turns to keep the momentum going. These children were very fortunate not to be another statistic in the 10-20% incidence of child labour in the country according to Table 2.8, WDI 2005, The World Bank. Across India child labour is a major factor preventing children from going to school and equipping themselves with literacy skills. Poverty forces many children into work, but being illiterate will further propel the poverty cycle. I asked some of the children about their memories from before daddy’s home.

 

Some spoke of life on the street, their parents dying, while some didn’t want to talk about what they had been through. The difference that education was doing for these children really brought home how important access to education is in the fight against poverty and injustice. While in education children get the chance to develop physically and mentally, this in turn is better for their health as they are better able to fight infection and the skills they learn is better for the economy. Even in Ireland you could end up on the street without an education and forced to work for a lower wage than your peers. Children who don’t get an education don’t get the same opportunities later in life, their career prospects are limited. The Care and Share compound which combines both an orphanage and public school is a haven for children without parents and families, and those who cannot afford private education also send their children to the school and have them collected each day. Ireland is not immune from child labour.

 

According to teachers’ unions, children’s performance in school is affected by the long part-time hours many work during the school term. The Labour Inspectorate takes few offending employers to court. The ICTU wants to see more done to combat child labour in the Republic. Education is the way forward for India and Ireland, long may this continue to be realised.

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