Read the following passage about some unfortunate children live in certain parts of the world.
This crusader was unusual. He was only ten years old but he definitely knew what he was fighting for and for whom he was fighting. Iqbal Masih had been bonded 1 at age four to a village carpet maker and spent much of the next six years chained to a loom 2. At age ten he slipped his chains and sought the help of an organization which secured him a place in a primary school.
Iqbal possessed a maturity beyond his years and a clear sense of justice 3. By his twelfth birthday, he had helped to liberate 4 3000 children from bondage at textile and brick factories. He used his unlikely status to urge the world to stop using child labour. This, of course, did not make him popular with the politician and the industrialists. They threatened his life. One day he was shot dead. Hundred of mourners attended his funeral. A week later, thousands of protesters marched demanding an end to child labour.
Iqbal's death highlighted the plight of children in underdeveloped countries. It has been noted that there are more than 15 million working children in Pakistan alone. Half of these children are below the age of ten. In the carpet-making industry they make up 90 per cent of the workers. These children are paid very little or sometimes nothing at all. They work 80 hours a week in near total darkness and total silence. The darkness provides protection from photographers who wish to catch abusers of children. Of cause it is also economical. The children are not allowed to talk so that they will not make mistakes.
The children are punished if they take longer than 30 minutes for a daily meal break or if they fall asleep. Punishments are doled 5 out in a storage closet where children are hung upside down by their knees, starved, caned or beaten. They have marks all over their bodies and sometimes they are fined too, which means that they will not get any pay at all.
Akbar, aged eight, squats at an upright loom. Bonded to a carpet master at age five, he works six days a week, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Small, thin and malnourished 6, he has severe curvature 7 of the spine from sitting over his work and lack of exercise. His hands are covered with scars. It is possible that he has tuberculosis. And it is possible he will not live very long either.
'The master says I am slow and clumsy,' says Akbar. 'I was beaten ten days ago after I made some mistakes in a carpet.' Lifting a lock of hair, he reveals a bruise on his right temple 8. Akbar works on his carpet with great patience. Tying the thousands of threads is a torture of the worst sort - a death sentence which in a way it is.
'I know I must learn a trade, but my parents are so far away. I would like to be with my family. I would like to play with my friends. This is not the way children should live,' he says.
For the thousands of children like Iqbal and Akbar, there is no escape. They are born into poverty. Children become labourers almost as soon as they can walk. Much of the farmland is worked by toddlers. Children do the laundry for their richer neighbours and drive donkey carts delivering goods all over the city centre. There are very few areas in which child labour is not used.
When will child abuse stop? When will children be allowed to be children? Children all over the world should enjoy love and attention from loving parents. They should be going to schools, not to abusive employers and miserable factories. They should be laughing and enjoying themselves in the wonder of growing up and developing their many abilities.
Everything is in the hands of adults. They should decide what is right for the children of the world. Mistakes in this area mean misery for children. How many more Iqbal have to die before we learn our lesson? And in the meantime, how many Akbars have to languish 9 in deplorable factories before they can experience the joy of being children?
1 forced to work for a
particular employer 6 undernourished,
2 a machine that is used for weaving thread into cloth 7 curved shape
3 idea of what is right and fair 8 flat part on either side of one's head above the ear and close to the eye
4 free 9 suffer