What is the connection between child labour and formal school education?

March 07, 2014 | FAQs | No Comments

As we have already mentioned there are a number of ways of looking at child labour and different people have different perceptions. Some believe that only wage-earning work done by children should be classified as child labour. There are others who focus only on child labour in hazardous occupations like carpet weaving, match factories, glass factories and so on and do not bother too much about other working children. There are some who assert that some kinds of work for children are not only not bad but also positively good especially when performed in a family environment. This is classified as child work (good) as opposed to child labour (bad).

Distinctions such as child work, child labour, and hazardous work and so on only blur the issue. Is working on a loom more hazardous than working as a bonded labourer under a landlord? Are grazing cattle to be categorised as child work if done for one’s own family but child labour if performed for a wage? Suppose the wage rate is high and work conditions are good then who is to decide which is better. How does one categorise domestic work like fetching water, looking after siblings and so on? Does it constitute work at all? Many do not even include this work under the category of child labour at all. As a result they imply that there is a category of children who are neither at work nor in schools. These are sometimes referred to as the ‘nowhere’ children.

The MVF model sees categorisation in regard to the work done by a child as purely artificial and only leading to more complications, not solutions. It regards every form of work done by children as child labour. It also asserts that in the rural Indian context there is no such thing as an idle non-school going child. Any child not in school will sooner than later is put to work. In this model there are thus only two categories of children, those who go to work viz. Child labourers and those who go to full time formal day school. This is the genesis of the MVF ‘non-negotiable’ that every child out of school is a child labourer.

MVF believes that every child has a right to childhood and an opportunity to develop to his/her full potential and that every form of work done by a child interferes with this right. Coupled with the understanding that only children who are full time students can be kept away from work it believes that the only way the child’s right to childhood can be fulfilled is by making the child a full time student. In the MVF model therefore, securing to a child his/her right to childhood, elimination of child labour and universalization of education are all a part of the same process. Anyone attempting to deal with one without taking cognisance of the other is bound to fail.

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