Sunio: Working children in Lanao del Sur

CHILDREN come to our boarding house here in Mindanao State University, shouting “kamais” (corn), “ubi”(steamed sweet potato, also known as Camote Cue), “suman” (sticky rice sweets), or “maruya”(banana fritters) with their tiny voices, shouting on top of their lungs to let people know what they are selling.

You could have called them hardworking for boys at their age for exchanging playtime with means to make honest money – only if they have not been vending it seven days a week, including weekdays, which are supposed to be school days.

What’s more is they swing by our place almost every hour. Why are they selling food during school hours?

Students and residents here enjoy the food with them, but knowing that they were not going to school in order to work leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is clear that child labor is illegal, no matter the financial status of the family. They can help out a bit, but children should not be forced with the duty to help feed their family.

It continues to be a persisting problem in the country where parents pull out their kids from school to make them work. Some parents, however, merely consent to the choice of their kids to make money voluntarily instead.

In Lanao del Sur, however, the scene of poor kids working is rampant. It is done in broad daylight and has become a normal day-to-day picture that people have unconsciously thought that it is okay.

It can be observed that Lanao del Sur is lacking in the enforcement of the full rights of a child and in educating the people of the Lake about it. This may even be a cause why Lanao del Sur is consistent in placing bottom in having the lowest literacy rates in the Country.

Some parents might argue that they are poor and that they need extra hands to help feed the family. Anyway, their child didn’t like going to school, anyway. Making him stop schooling and making him work would become a punishment.

It does not seem to be the best way to punish a child.

This lack of interest to education should be given a solution by the schools involved on the ground. Also, even if child labor may seem to be a private family affair, since the rights of a child to play and study freely is already denied, schools should already take initiatives to intervene.

Personally, I opt not to buy anything from kids who sell on the streets. We encourage them to go home instead. I think that the more you patronize their goods and the more money they make, the more their parents would get motivated out of this short-term extrinsic value to make the child work further. This may even all the more prevent them from returning to school, since the results of education takes a long time to manifest.

By not buying from them, I might risk them to starve tonight, or get scolded, however.

There were times when at night, after dinnertime, some boys aging between seven to 10 years old would still be carrying crates on their small shoulders which contained cold Camote Cues that were unsold during the day.

Even if they know that people are already full from eating dinner, they would still persist to sell their food to them. Some come to us with a pitiful tone, almost begging us to buy their food or else, their parents would scold or spank them. “Sasabihin nanaman ni Omie na naglaro lang ako (Mother would say that I just played all day [instead of selling],” one boy once said to us.

Even if it were true that he played instead of worked, isn’t it normal for children to be hardwired to play naturally?
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