For Pakistan's child labourers, education still a distant dream

For Pakistan's child labourers, education still a distant dream

Every morning, Zubair Ahmed, 9, wistfully looks at other children going to schools. Young Ahmed always wanted to get education but his parents' poor financial condition forced him to work at an automobile workshop to earn bread for the family.

Early in the morning, Ahmed reaches at his workplace near the Government Muslim High School at Saidpur Road and works there the whole day.

"I want to go to school and play cricket with other children. But how can I fulfil my dream when I work in the workshop from 9am to 9pm," Ahmed said while talking to Dawn. "My father is a labourer and he wanted me to get technical training instead of working as a labourer and requested the owner of the workshop to train me."

He said at present he was not being paid any salary as he was getting training. "After working for about two years, the workshop owner started giving me one-time meal and Rs50 daily. I spend most of the amount on purchasing sweets for my younger sister and two brothers," he said.

"How can I get education? My father has to work as a daily wager to make ends meet. On rainy days and public holidays, there is no work at all. My mother saves some money from the amount which I give her daily and uses it during these lean days," he said.

Gul Zaman, 13, who works at an automobile workshop at Dhoke Hassu, added that he also wanted to get education but poverty forced him into working at the workshop. "My father died a few years back and my mother married again. Our stepfather asks me and my 10-year-old brother to work and bring him money daily."

He said his stepfather used to tell him that education was not important and a technical person could make more money. "I have been working at the workshop for three years. The owner mostly asks me to clean the room and open the nuts of vehicles. However, I learned many things while observing him repairing the vehicles," he said.

"I have no other choice except sending my child to work. We are poor and cannot afford education which is for the rich people. We have to work daily to earn the bread," said Abdur Rasheed, the father of a boy who also works at an auto-workshop in Satellite Town.

He said the family would suffer if he sent his child to school. "I worked daily but my income is not sufficient to feed my nine-member family," he said.

This is not the story of two or three children as there are hundreds of children working in workshops, tailor shops, barbers, restaurants, markets, etc.

Three years back, the Punjab government launched a 'universal primary education campaign' in the province to enroll all out-of-school children in the age group of five to nine years.

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