A decade after the International Labor Organization (ILO) designated June 12 as World Day Against Child Labor, "too many children continue to sacrifice their health and childhoods because they are forced to work," says Lorretta Johnson, AFT secretary-treasurer and co-chair of the Child Labor Coalition. She notes that even though significant strides have been made in those 10 years, ILO estimates that more than 200 million children work around the world. More than half of them labor at tasks designated as the "worst forms of child labor."
The ILO has documented the most hazardous work these children do, which exposes them to physical, psychological or sexual abuse. It can entail work underground, under water, at dangerous heights or in confined spaces; work with dangerous machinery, equipment and tools, or which involves the manual handling or transport of heavy loads; work in an unhealthy environment that may expose children to hazardous substances, agents or processes, or to temperatures, noise levels, or vibrations damaging to their health; work under particularly difficult conditions such as laboring for long hours or during the night; or work where the child is unreasonably confined to the premises of the employer.
This abhorrent situation not only endangers the lives and physical safety of child laborers, but also robs them of the educational opportunities that break poverty cycles and provide for brighter futures.
"Every day, kids who should be focusing on their studies and just being kids are, instead, spending many hours during the week at work on farms, in factories and other work sites," says Johnson. "World Day Against Child Labor highlights this problem, but it will not be solved without a sustained, committed effort from all those involved in protecting children's and workers' rights. Teachers have an essential role to play, and I am proud of the AFT's efforts to help eliminate child labor."
Educators can talk with their students about the issue. The AFT has a wealth of teaching resources available to help classrooms get involved in finding solutions to end child labor.
Education International, AFT's global education union partner, also has developed an activity to guide discussion and encourage action that teachers, community leaders, unionists and others can use to draw attention to child labor on June 12 or any other day. It only takes an hour and promotes critical thinking about child labor and its implications. The EI website has the activity poster and instructional materials.
Find out more about the June 12 observance and the state of child labor around the globe by visiting the International Labor Organization website. [Abby Mills, Barbara McKenna, Janet Bass]
June 11, 2012