Editorial: For child workers-A A +A
Sunday, July 8, 2012
EDUCATION and employment.
Enabling people to find work or earn a livelihood will not just end material deprivation but another kind of poverty, more hidden but also more corrosive for exploiting those who are unable to resist and defend themselves: child workers.
This economic solution seems to be all that’s needed to end the exploitation of children in voluntary or forced employment until one reviews the situation and finds that materialism, vice and criminality lie below poverty in rationalizing why children work.
Thus, the authorities should take a multi-pronged approach to eradicating child labor in the country: education and advocacy to inform parents, guardians and custodians of children’s inviolable rights, specifically their responsibility to keep a child in school and support his or her needs for learning; and implementation, monitoring and prosecution of those violating Republic Act 9231, also known as the “Act providing the elimination of the worst forms of child labor and affording stronger protection for the working child.”
Good children obey their elders.
That’s a tradition emulated by many children who, upon becoming parents themselves, pass on this convention to the next generation.
In the light of cases of parents, guardians and custodians exploiting their children or wards, obedience of elders requires, by necessity, a case-to-case caveat.
Incest, pedophilia, sex trafficking, home-based cyber sex operations and child labor make it mandatory for the community, through government, nongovernment organizations and other civil society stakeholders, to more actively protect and promote the rights of children.
Putting children first overturns another parenting convention, deep-rooted in rural communities, that siring many children offers the best insurance for a comfortable old age for parents.
Even without the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill, parents must accept and fulfill their moral obligation to have the children they are willing and committed to raise, feed, clothe, educate and provide for.
Small children are not to be left alone at home so that one can wash clothes, find work, borrow money or gain a moment’s recreation.
Children are not unpaid, unquestioning helpers for watching their younger siblings or feeding the livestock. They cannot be used to pay off debt or acquire a cell phone and other possessions that the neighbors have.
Children’s time is as sacrosanct as an adult’s: for attending classes, for doing their homework and studying, for playing and acting their age.
If a person should do one thing right in this life, it is to be a good parent. It is not to destroy another person when he or she is young and unguarded.
Governance as parenting
What is to stand in the way of negligent, erring and criminal parents, guardians and custodians?
It can take the form of the collective, the community monitoring and alerting when there are unregistered recruiters hiring in the barangay minors for lucrative work in the cities, ostensibly as helpers, factory workers or department store employees.
Good governance can also be solitary, the concern of a teacher who visits the home to check on a student who is unaccountably absent or acts disturbed in school. It can be the community whistleblower who alerts authorities to the hidden factories or unusual work hours of children hired because of their small fingers and greedy parents to do the hazardous work of assembling pyrotechnics.
Good governance is the household employer who does not hire a minor and justifies this due to need. It is the employer who pays not just a fair wage but contributes for the Social Security Service and Philhealth coverage of helpers. It is an irony that many yayas and helpers care for their ward as if they were their own children but their employers do not provide adequately for them so they can take better care of their own families.
Governance is corporate responsibility to sponsor feeding for the underweight students; build more, cheaper and sturdy classrooms; upgrade libraries; start virtual learning centers; support scholars; and hold educational trips and activities.
While one has to hear of a firm, bar or “adult” establishment closed for hiring child workers or exposing minors to lewdness and prostitution, nongovernment workers and individuals have rescued children on the streets. They sell everything, from rags, candles, candies, leis to themselves.
The estimate for child laborers ranges from four to five million in the country today.
More than 50 percent come from the agriculture sector.
What are we waiting for?
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 09, 2012.