Thursday, June 12, 2014

World Day Against Child Labour Seminar Highlights Child exploitation

Emdad Rahman

UKBET organised a World Day Against Child Labour seminar as part of their campaign  to end child labour and exploitation. 

The lunchtime staff seminar for London Borough of Tower Hamlets staff was organised to raise awareness of child labour and the work UKBET does with some of the most impoverished children on the planet. 

For 14 years Annette Zera was the Principal of Tower hamlets College. She discussed the focus of the work UKBET does;  "We have been operating for over twenty years and switched from teacher training to supporting children in education. I set this trust up and tried to raise money. I'm not very good at that but I persuaded one governor at the college to pay fifteen thousand pounds a year, now increased to twenty thousand, but we need some help now as costs are estimated at a minimum of fifty thousand pounds a year. 

"There are loads of NGO's but nobody is getting to these children as we are because you have to speak in depth to parents, educators and employers."

She added; "There are 1.9 million child workers in Bangladesh who work 14 hours a day. Many are threatened and work for no or very low pay. 

"At least half the children are not being paid a penny. They work all the time and because of the lack of money they eat 'Keema' a non nutritious snack just to keep their hunger at bay. It really is heartbreaking to see."

Annette also introduced attendees to Shopon, a young child who carries out welding duties. Shopon aspires to open his own business one day and help train others in the same plight as himself, to help them escape the perils of child labour and exploitation. 

Annette feels that the charity is heading in the right direction towards providing definite and positive progression in the daily living of these children; "We can really change and improve the lives of these children. To really get to know the children, you have to get past the employers. 

"We have started a pilot project and in our colleague Muhammad Sayam, we have someone who left his corporate life to help make a real difference. 

"Sayam is using his skills and the resources available to make sure that these children get an education. We are using negotiation and tact with a lot of these cases and an example in point is of a group of children who work in garages. 

"Sayam has persuaded these children to attend the educational support centre three times a week for an hour and a half. The children are very motivated to learn and really enjoy themselves whilst there. 

"When we ask if they want to be at work or school they nearly always say work and the reason is they sadly believe that they will get guaranteed full time work when they are older and then will be able to support their family.

"This is very far from the truth as when they are older they will be sacked and replaced by other children.

"We offer a holistic programme and are talking to local primary schools to explore evening study for these children. In this way we can bring education to them."

Safety at work is also a priority and the team have discussed this with employers; "We can try to make their workplace as safe as possible and with the support of local Doctors, first aid boxes have been provided to owners. They have really engaged in this regard."

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