While we prepare our American children and ourselves for the first day of school, children around the globe are facing the fact that an education is an elusive dream.
Take, for instance, the children of the Congo. For most of these children, the yearly education fee of $30 (Sh2,400) is just out of their grasp. So, many children in their country are forced to work the copper mines along with thousands of others who toil long and tedious hours in the sweltering sun of the mining region in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
There are hundreds of children, many as young as 7 years old who contribute to the effort of sorting, carrying, or cleaning the mineral. For their efforts they are paid the sum total of less than four dollars (Sh320) but it is enough to contribute to the expenses at home and supply food for the family.
You can watch the sad video here.
When we think of childhood we think of the following: A time to dream, a time to play and a time to develop their imaginations and their education. But for the kids of the Congo, days of backbreaking work in the scorching sun seems to be their only hope for survival in a country that is starving just to survive.
I thought of my own mother growing up in America. During the Great Depression, she worked for hours in the noonday sun picking apples and peaches in the orchards. It was backbreaking work too, for young boys and girls, but there were few labor laws in the U.S. during the 1930’s. In fact, it wasn’t until 1938 that a Federal regulation of child labor was achieved in Fair Labor Standards Act and for the first time, minimum ages of employment and hours of work for children were regulated by federal law in America.
According to the United States Department of Labor Website:
The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that more than 250 million children are working around the world, often in occupations that are “detrimental to their physical, mental and emotional well-being.” An estimated 120 million children work full time, with no opportunities for education and the accompanying promise of a better future. These youths have been found working as miners; as laborers in rug, textile, glass, and brick manufacturing establishments; as domestic servants; and as prostitutes.
As you prepare your children to return to school to further their education, remind them that it should never be taken for granted. There are children around the globe who would jump at the chance to sit in a classroom, to learn and to dream instead of working in the mines, the factories and the streets.
The world is full of seven year old dropouts – sadly so.
History of child labor in the U.S.: