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No School Fun for Child Laborers

Millions of children worldwide do not attend school but instead toil in dangerous labor due to poverty. There is the moral obligation to break the cycle of misery and slavery.

For those who have discovered the fun of learning, school is an adventure!  But for millions of working children worldwide, the adventures of a new school year remain but a dream. Sadly, these children will never learn to read or write. They will not acquire computer skills. They will not experience singing in chorus, going on field trips or playing at recess. Their classrooms will be sweatshops, farm fields, and battlefields. Their days will be filled with long, dirty, dangerous work. And the lesson they will learn is that life is cruel and unfair.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), 152 million children 5-17 years old are victims of child labor, while 73 million of these children are trapped in hazardous work. And even more tragic is that approximately 8 million children are enslaved in the worst forms of child labor – the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage, drug dealing, forced recruitment to fight in armed conflicts, prostitution and pornography. And worst of all, according to ILO, every year about 22,000 children are killed while working.  

One of the main reasons children do not attend school, and work instead, is because adults in countless families in poor nations have not had access to a good education, learning a viable trade, or are subsistence farmers who are unable to grow enough food for their families. Thus, it sadly becomes imperative that their children must work.

This enslaving chain can, and must, be broken! The poor deserve better – especially poor children who belong in school not in sweatshops and on battlefields. Wealthy nations have a moral obligation to justly, generously and energetically work to abolish world poverty, hunger and child labor.

For as St. Pope John Paul II said in his 1979 visit to the U.S., “The poor of the United States and of the world are your brothers and sisters in Christ. You must never be content to leave them just the crumbs from the feast. You must take of your substance, and not just of your abundance, in order to help them. And you must treat them like guests at your family table.”

According to the Christian anti-poverty organization Bread for the World, less than one percent of the U.S. federal budget goes toward international poverty-focused development assistance – that’s only about 50 cents of every $100. We can, we should, and we must do far better than this! 

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