School education needs to improve: Gursharan Kaur


New Delhi : Branding child labour as a major issue, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s wife, Gursharan Kaur Friday said India needs to strengthen elementary education to tackle the social evil.

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“School education in India needs to improve a lot. Focus must be given to primary and secondary education to save children from the menace of child labour,” Kaur said while addressing a programme to mark World Day against Child Labour here.

“In our country, girls are the worst sufferers. They face gender discrimination. Their work is generally under valued and they drop out from schools more. What we need is to provide them with sustainable livelihood and a vigilant and caring system.”

Kaur said it was disturbing to see a young boy working in a road side eatery, and girl children selling magazines on busy road intersections. “I think, employers looking for cheap labour need to be severely punished.”

The programme was hosted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Unicef and National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). The theme of this year’s World Day against Child Labour was ‘Give Girls a Chance’.

“Going to school can bring equity and justice to girl children. Accepting domestic work (by children) paid or unpaid as a part of labour can also help curb the menace. It is possible to abolish child labour from India,” NCPCR chief Shantha Sinha said.

N.M. Adyanthaya, workers representative to ILO, urged Kaur to push the prime minister into bringing all the laws related to child labour under one umbrella.

“It’s not a simple social problem. The issue must be seen from an economic point of view. Unless adults – fathers and mothers – have work with a handsome wage, children will be put to work,” said economist Devaki Jain.

According to a 2001 census, there are around 12 million under-age children who work in the country but non-governmental organisations claim that the number is not less than 60 million.