"The children are the future of our nation." This famous line of Dr. Jose Rizal has gained prominence especially among policy makers in their quest to develop and implement laws and programs that will propel the total development of a nation's millions of children. I personally agree with Rizal's vision since each child is a potential contributor in the improvement of society. A child may seem insignificant in determining the status or condition of a society, but collectively it is a major determinant in a society's progress.
Unfortunately, in the Philippines, street children are victims of trafficking for illegal employment and prostitution. This is due to the poverty, hunger and abuse which a street child experiences at an early age. Street children become more susceptible to these illegal treatments because of the lack of education and awareness toward their society, environment and human rights. As a result, they tend to disregard education and start working at an early age to be able to help themselves as well as their family financially.
Child labor is the illegal employment of children below the age of 15, where they are not directly under the sole responsibility of their parents or legal guardians. Furthermore, the child's work endangers their life, safety, health and morals or it hinders them from schooling. It also includes the situation of children below the age of 18 who are employed in hazardous occupations. In the 1997 Asian consultation on Child Labor, representatives of government and non-government organizations, as well as the child workers themselves tallied the most intolerable forms of child labor. These include the following: prostitution of children and similar work in the entertainment industry, children used as soldiers, mining and quarrying, construction work, deep-sea fishing, smuggling of illegal substances, scavenging and pyrotechnics.
The negative impact of child labor often causes irreparable damage to the child's physical and psychological development. Children who start working at an early age most likely suffer from respiratory diseases, deaths, poor nutrition, physical health hazards, sexually transmitted disease and anti-social behavior. In addition, they tremendously reduce educational opportunities, which later leads to dropping-out and illiteracy. Since they have abandoned their educational responsibilities, it is difficult for them to stop working.
Today, because of the increase in child labor, the basic minimum age of employment in the Philippines is contained in Republic Act 7658. The minimum age of employment for hazardous is contained in the Labor Code. These two laws are complemented by other national laws containing some provisions. Since 1988, the Government of the Philippines, in partnership with UNICEF among others, has established programs for child labor which seeks to abolish exploitative child labor and provide protection, healing and recovery for child workers.
We, students who receive adequate education can help in reducing child labor through many means. We could teach young children about the value of education since they will understand us better because we are basically the same age. For instance, in child-to-child projects, we can try to build a child's self-esteem and self-worth. We could also help generate income for poor families and organizations. Furthermore, by simply taking care of our environment which includes households, school grounds, or our community, we are helping by giving children a healthier atmosphere for growing up. This would reduce sickness and reflect on our physical outlook. These are just some of the many simple ways wherein we could help street children uplift their living condition.