By Mohammad Mosa Ahmadzai
Quarter of children in Afghanistan is deprived of education due to the current conflict and extreme poverty. Poverty deprives many Afghan children and force them to work from dawn to sunset in sever conditions to earn and support their extended families as they are the only bread winners. Most of these children are orphans who lost their father or caretaker of the family in the current conflict and they must work to feed their family members. Children workers complain that the money they earn through hard labor isn’t sufficient to meet their family’s needs.
Some children work and go to school as well but the combination of both school and work is a huge burden on their shoulders which force them to leave school. Children workers work long hours with little or no pay. They wave carpets, work in brick kilns, in the metal industry as tinsmiths and welders, in mines, in agriculture fields, on the streets as vendors, show shiners, beggars, cleaners of cars and sell pockets in bazaars. The children who carry out the aforementioned activities are at the age of 5 to 14 years and are deprived of education, and they don’t have access to the basic facilities of life like shoes, clothes and suitable places to live in. As winter comes, Many Afghan children face very harsh weather conditions as they don’t have blankets and heaters at their homes.
Many Afghan children work in cold weather in Kabul city roughly 100 kilometers from presidential palace, and they even don’t have money to buy food. The international community has given billions of dollars aid to Afghanistan since 2001, which has gone into the pockets of rogue militias, warlords and corrupt government officials but most of the Afghan children still lead a very miserable, unhappy and poor life. The opportunities which are at the disposal of the sons and daughters of the rich people aren’t provided to children of poor people. Hazardous work causes severe injury, illness and death to child laborers, and there is no mercy on them by factory and companies owners. Some child laborers complain that police take money from them illegally and sometimes insult and beat them. The current conflict has impacted the Afghan children’s lives negatively and they are afraid to go to school as they suffer from depression and anxiety. According to the Afghan ministry of education nearly 44 percent of Afghan children of school age are deprived of school education.
As the world marks 30 years since the ratification of the UN convention on the rights of the child on November 20th, children in Afghanistan have known nothing but war with serious implications to their mental health. Children in Afghanistan are scared of explosions, kidnappings, beatings and other forms of violence. A few weeks back two children were killed in a blast in Kabul when they were on their way to school. Most of the interviews conducted with children’s parents said that they fear when their children leave home and go to school. They said, ‘‘we are worried about our children’s future as violence is being intensified across the country.” However, Toby Lanzer Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations secretary General for Afghanistan said that more Afghan children lost their lives to the conflict last year. He said, 2018 was the deadliest year for children in Afghanistan. Lanzer said Violence, instability and poverty are the core seasons which deprive children of education. According to the United Nations, More than 530 schools were attacked last year.
It’s worth mentioning that Child trafficking is the most serious issue as they are transported , recruited, harbored, brainwashed by radicalism, subjected to terrorist activities, forced labor and exploitation. Children in rural areas easily fall prey to extremism as the Afghan government opposition groups control half of the country, and don’t allow children to go to school, joining terrorists is the only alternative for Afghan children in the far-flung areas. Lack of attention to the Afghan children problems by government and the international organizations lead to forced labor, and deprivation of children from education.
For elimination of child labor in Afghanistan, public awareness is important to be spread by tribal leaders, religious scholars and government officials as lack of awareness in the societies lead to child labor and exploitation. The Afghan government needs to take urgent actions to end risky child labor. Both Afghanistan and its international donors can take serious steps to protect children from forced labor, exploitation. Government can put a halt to child labor and uplift children from poverty by assisting them to go to school and illegalize working under the age of 18 years, and determine special budget, make plans for the education of children workers and practically implement those plans, make economic assistance programs for children to go to school instead of work, and pay special attention to children’s problems who are out of school and provide educational opportunities for them.