Every child is a gift to the world. Besides the five external senses, the child has internal senses including memory, knowledge, wisdom, creativity, imagination, and innovative skills that need to be developed so that the child could become a responsible citizen who will contribute towards building a just and fair society. Essentially, the child goes through three stages—the playing age, the school age and the teen age during which parents and school teachers and others need to help the child grow in the spirit of sincerity and devastating honesty, selfless and sacrificial service to others. If this does not happen and the child is left to stagnate in a pigsty of selfishness, greed, envy or jealousy or other vices the child is likely to become frustrated and feel that life is not worth living. Some children are even drawn into vices like drug addiction by multi-million-dollar drug mafias which grow by destroying the lives of children. A spiritual leader has warned that anyone who harms children should be thrown into the deepest ocean with a millstone tied around the neck.
On their part children need to remember and act on the words of a famous poem written Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Titled “Perseverance” it goes like this; “Drive the nail aright, hit it on the head, strike with all your might, while the iron’s red; when you’ve work to do, do it with a will , they who reach the top, first must climb the hill; standing at the foot, gazing at the sky, How can you get up If you never try? ;though you stumble often, never be down-cast, Try, and try again, you’ll succeed at last.”
It is in such a complex crisis—compounded by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic—that the United Nations today marks World Day Against Child Labour. In a statement the UN says this year’s World Day focuses on action taken for the 2021 International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour. It is the first World Day since the universal ratification of the International Labour Organisation’s(ILO) Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour and takes place at time when the COVID-19 crisis threatens to reverse years of progress in tackling the problem.In June for the World Day, the ILO and the United Nations International Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) will release new global estimates and trends on child labour (2016-2020), under the aegis of Alliance 8.7. The report will include an assessment of how the pace of progress towards ending child labour is likely to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented economic crisis that has accompanied it.
Referring to the prevalence of child labour, the UN says children around the world are routinely engaged in paid and unpaid forms of work that are not harmful to them. However, they are classified as child labourers when they are either too young to work, or are involved in hazardous activities that may compromise their physical, mental, social or educational development. In the least developed countries, slightly more than one in four children (ages 5 to 17) are engaged in labour that is considered detrimental to their health and development.
According to the UN, Africa ranks highest among regions both in the percentage of children in child labour — one-fifth — and the absolute number of children in child labour — 72 million. Asia and the Pacific ranks second highest in both these measures — 7% of all children and 62 million in absolute terms are in child labour in this region. The Africa and the Asia and the Pacific regions together account for almost nine out of every ten children in child labour worldwide. 9% all children in lower-middle-income countries, and 7% of all children in upper-middle-income countries, are in child labour. Statistics on the absolute number of children in child labour in each national income grouping indicate that 84 million children in child labour, accounting for 56% of all those in child labour, actually live in middle-income countries, and an additional 2 million live in high-income countries.
While reflecting on these shocking disclosures we need to remember the achievement of two of the greatest children in recent decades. One of them is Mala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate. The other is Swedish school girl Greta Thunberg, an environmental activist who is challenging world leaders to take immediate action for climate change mitigation. Not only the Save the Children Fund we all should get involved in saving the Children and helping them to develop their creative potential.