‘I was robbed of an education because I had to start working at a young age’

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A child labour survivor from India, Rajesh Jadav, says he was robbed of an education because he had to start working at a young age.

Jatav worked in a brick factory with his whole family. Research by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and UNICEF says 106-million children in child labour do not get an education.

The Global Conference on the Eradication of Child Labour is also looking at how to remove barriers to children going to school. The Conference is currently on at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.

Jatav says he desperately wanted to attend school like other children.

“I used to work in a bricks factory with my whole family. I used to make bricks. So sometimes I saw some children were going to a school, I saw them going to school with their bags. The financial condition of my family was not good so they could not send me to school. But I always thought that I should be in a school.”

Impact of COVID-19 could force millions into child labour

A report by the ILO and UNICEF says millions of people are at risk of falling prey to child labour due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

UNICEF executive director Catherine Russel says children who have dropped out of school during the pandemic need to be reintegrated into the learning system.

“For some families facing economic crisis and instability, child labour is a coping mechanism. These families need direct support to help weather storms without putting their children into work. We also need to keep all children learning in school where they belong and to reintegrate children and adolescents who had to drop out. We must never accept child labour as inevitable. We have the power to change it.”

Increased social protection

Delegates at the conference say ending child labour will require increased social protection and monitoring of supply chain through a multi-stakeholder approach.

The conference seeks to look at why millions of children are victims of exploitative labour practices.

SABC News reporter Bongani Gema speaks to the ILO’s Michaëlle de Cock: