TOPICS: Invest in education

The incidence of child labor in Nepal is relatively high compared with other countries in South Asia. According to national surveys, Nepal has 34% of its children between the age of 5 and 14 involved in child labor, compared with 12% in the South Asia region.

Labeled as one of the poorest and most undeveloped nations in the world, Nepal’s poor economic status contributes to the high rate of child labor and poverty.

When families are faced with monetary hardships, they are often forced to send their children to work, sometimes in extremely hazardous conditions, merely to attain basic subsistence. Nepal’s rigid social structure also contributes to child labor. Inequalities between groups in society often augment poverty, which in turn forces parents to send their children to become part of the workforce.

Social inequalities causing child labor can most vividly be seen with bonded child labor. One of the most effective ways to combat child labor is to change the misunderstanding from within. This can only be done through education. Education acts not only as a means to develop the minds of children, but also as a foundation for social change.

Education can transform a child’s life. Going to school opens up new avenues and opportunities with the child learning to think, explore, discover, question and acquire knowledge. Only if all working children are in school can it lead to equity and justice.

We must create a social trust and faith in the poor, to stand by them, and celebrate their victories for having taken the right decision to send their children to school instead of work. The education of a child should not be hindered by a family’s income. Child workers are not the only ones who need to be educated.

Parents must also be aware of the dangers of child labor, the devastating effects working may have on their children and on the larger society, and their feasible options (i.e. education, government programs, etc.).

There is no better investment for a society than on education. Educating children has a lifelong impact on their health, nutrition, employment and growth. Education is a basic human right to be addressed.

Child labor is proportional to the increasing poverty in the country. In such a scenario, how can the situation improve? On the positive side, the government has taken some concrete, steps. But what the government also needs to address is the root cause, which is poverty.