Poverty forcing Baghlan kids into labour
PUL-I-KHUMRI (Pajhwok): “I did not work today and can’t go home empty-handed because mother told me to bring some breads home,” Safiullah, an eight-year-old child labourer said on Wednesday.
Safiullah lives with his mother, a sister and a brother in a house against rent in Pul-i-Khumri, the capital of northern Baghlan province.
Shaking due to cold, wearing a pair of torn shoes and an old jacket, he told Pajhwok Afghan News his father was a soldier and was killed in a suicide attack in Kabul.
The boy earns 50 afghanis a day polishing shoes for people and his nine-year-old brother runs a handcart in the city.
“I want to go to school, but my mother does not allow me. She says I should feed the family,” he said.
Safiullah said he failed to earn money today and if went home empty-handed, his mother would not let him in.
“It was very cold today and the hotel owner where I usually polish shoes did not let me enter there. I cannot go home today, and don’t know where I should go,” he said.
An elderly man, who listened to the orphaned boy telling his story, said: “Don’t cry, there are many like you suffering from abject poverty. I would take you your home today and tell your mother not to beat you.”
Backbreaking poverty forces hundreds of children like Safiullah into labour in order to feed their families in Pul-i-Khumri.
Some poor children, including girls, earn a small amount of money by attracting passengers to buses and others fill coal bags.
Fareshta, a six-year-old girl, who cleans cars in the city, said: “My father is disabled and we are two sisters and have no brothers. We sisters clean cars together to earn some money from drivers.”
In case they failed to earn money, Fareshta said they collected half-rotted vegetable shopkeepers threw around shops and cleaned them at home before cooking and eating. She said her family lived in a rented home and earning money was an obligation for her.
Some children sell tea in hotels and others call for alms in the city. Mohammad Bai, a resident of Nahrain district, who had brought his patient to the civil hospital, said he spent nights in a hotel.
It was within an hour when more than 20 children, including shoeshine boys and beggars, entered the hotel demanding money, he said, wondering why the government had turned a blind eye to these children.
Statistics from the provincial Labour, Social Affairs Department show the number of child labourers and beggars has increased in Baghlan.
The department’s acting director, Aqa Mohammad Qasani, said the number of child labourers was around 100 in Pul-i-Khumri last year but reached 150 this year.
Civil society institutes estimate the number of child labourers at two million nationwide and blame the government for negligence in this regard.
According to Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), five million children, including three million girls, have been deprived of education.
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