Preliminary findings of a study on child labour in brick kilns across the country have revealed that children as young as five are working in kilns at Imadole, in the fringes of Kathmandu. Shocking as the revelation is, it is indicative of how rife child labour is. That it exists despite a slew of organisations working to eliminate employment of the minors is testimony to the fact that much is yet to be done to accomplish the goal. The study relates the problem to poverty and the deteriorating political situation in the country. Given that the parents themselves work in kilns under inhuman conditions, it is not surprising that the children are deprived of necessary amenities like clean drinking water, sanitation and health facilities and proper access to education. CONCERN-Nepal, an NGO working for child rights, however, has been providing informal education and mobile health facilities to the minor employees. Though a good beginning, there is much to be done to involve the needy children.

Anti-child labour campaigns, spearheaded by the International Labour Organisation, have succeeded in making quite an impact in the last decade, especially in the carpet industry. Although the scale of child labour in the said sector is yet to be entirely eliminated, the burden of eking out a livelihood has forced the children to take jobs elsewhere, often against their will. Worse, the employers have been indifferent to the need of eliminating child labour. Tempting, it certainly is for the kiln-owners to recruit workers for a lesser wage, but that it cannot be done without casting a Nelson’s eye to the conventions protecting child rights and anti-child labour laws is a cause for concern. Unless the employers too are educated about the drawbacks of employing minors, tackling this problem by urging children alone will be near impossible. Besides, brick kilns are by no means less hazardous. Children often sustain injuries while transferring bricks. Not surprisingly, this has done little to dampen their dependability on even the kilns to earn a living.

The organisations working to eliminate child labour, therefore, must take multi-pronged steps. Existing legislation, which is firm on preventing the problem, must ensure that the laws are implemented. Those already into child labour need to be enrolled for non-formal classes and provide with new window of opportunity through vocational trainings, which would help generate awareness among the working lot. This calls for the establishment of fund pools such as home loans to empower the deprived minority to help begin a new life. As brick kilns are an environmental hazard, the government must ensure that other workers, much less kids, work under healthy environment.