At least 15lakh children are engaged in hazardous occupations in the country and the number is rising day by day due to the hike in food price. Moreover, most of them work with little or no pay but for three meager meals.
According to reports, there are 218 million child laborers between the age of five and 17 in the world. Of them, 126 million are performing dangerous tasks or working in hazardous conditions.
In Bangladesh, there are 79 lakh working children of whom 64 lakh are in rural and 15 lakh in urban areas. Of them 15 lakh are engaged in hazardous jobs.
Besides, at least 7.20 lakh primary school-aged children are not enrolled in schools globally, while the number of such children in Bangladesh is about 86 lakh, source said.
In the city at least 5 lakh female child work as domestic helps. They get only three meals a day and on an average Tk 300 per month. At the age of 16 to 17 they look for jobs in garment factories.
Rahmat is 9 years old and works as an apprentice in a Saw Mills in Khilgaon. “I get three meals a day here, plus Tk 70 a week,” he said.
His father, Karamat Mia, 30, used to draw pushcart in the city. His mother Shahana Begum, 25, works as a domestic help. Rahmat used to go to the free government primary school but when Karamat had to have a surgery for a stomach tumour, the family’s finances were decimated.
“With coarse rice selling at Tk 35 per kg Rahmat is better off at work than at home. The Tk 300 I earn is our only income. My employers keep me free from worries about my food,” said Rahmat.
“I enjoyed going to school, but now I can’t. I have to earn money for my family. I will go to school again after my father’s recovery,” Rahmat hoped.
Like Rahmat many children are involved in dangerous occupations at Dholai Khal area in the city in lathe machines or welding or in paint making workshops. Some of them make an early start as rickshawpullers or brick crushers.
The recent eviction drive of the law enforcers against floating population in the capital also displaced a number of families, who are employing their children to run make-shift shops in the city for longer hours to evade police harassment.
There are also a section of the street children, who are engaged in rag picking or litter collecting, both involve health risks but are very lucrative. This section is prone to engage in drug dealing and other anti-social activities.
In line with the UN theme of this year, “Education is Right Response to Child Labour,” the government is pledge-bound to eliminate child labour and implement education programme for the children.
Along with the government, 30 non-government organisations are also working to withdraw children from hazardous jobs.
In addition, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), with the government, has established the Basic Education for Hard to Reach Urban Working children in six major cities.
In the first phase of the project, 11,550 centres nationwide offered two-year courses to 339,150 working children aged between eight and 14. Classes were held in two shifts to accommodate the children’s work schedules, with a maximum of 30 students per class. Learning materials were provided, and there was no homework involved.
Phase two aims to withdraw 30,000 child labourers from hazardous jobs through a two-year non-formal education and six-month skill development programmes. It also provides micro-credit to parents.
“With very poor or no education, child workers become trapped in the cycle of low skills, low income and low education that further pushes them into the vicious cycle of inter-generational poverty,” said a Dhaka University professor