Pakistan government tackled child slavery with cash handouts

Vastavam web: A government cash-incentive scheme has helped place almost 90,000 underage Pakistani brick kiln workers into school, officials said today, an initiative aimed at easing the long-standing problem of indentured labour.Campaigners estimate there are more than two million Pakistanis trapped in a vicious cycle of debt bondage to factory owners that continues for generations, a practice often referred to as modern slavery.Under the terms of the Punjab provincial government scheme, which began in January 2016, nearly 88,000 child brick kiln workers were selected for a stipend comprising an initial USD 20 per child, followed by a recurring monthly payment of USD 10.
The initative “lowered the opportunity cost of not sending children to school and families were able to mobilise this stipend to pay their debts,” a spokesman for Punjab’s education minister Rana Mashhood said.Teachers at a government school on the outskirts of Punjab provincial capital Lahore said the recently freed child workers – previously exposed to noxious smoke, brick dust, and fierce sun that pushes summer temperatures up to 50 degrees Celsius – made for the most eager learners.Fauzia Elahi, the school’s headteacher, said many of the 40 ex-brick kiln workers at her school initially had teething problems adjusting to their new life, but soon overcame them.
Critics have questioned the viability of an open-ended cash transfer scheme, however, and say not enough is being done to implement existing laws against bonded labour, such as arresting kiln owners who employ indentured workers.But Fasi Zaka, a development consultant, said: “Those things weren’t solving the problem over 20 years. Legal protections are hard to come by for people in some rural areas, and here you’re incentivising the parents.” Shumaila Bibi, a 11-year-old student at the Lahore school, began working at a brick kiln with her brothers and sisters four years ago after their father was injured in an accident.