Working kids

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By Godofredo M. Roperos

Politics also

Monday, June 30, 2014

A CHILD'S early existence and social life depend on the community where his family belongs. This thought occurred to me a few days ago when I came upon photos of some children sent out by their parents to pan for gold in Toledo City.

What makes the photos unique is that while the kids should be in school instead of being in a tunnel at sunrise every day, they pan for gold dust to help their parents overcome poverty and ensure their survival.

“After eating their breakfast, the Mahilum brothers (Marino and Joseph) go out of their wooden house to start mining.” They go to the mining tunnel to dig. They then place the soil in sacks.


The sacks are brought to a makeshift processing plant located just outside their house in Sitio Buswang, Barangay Cambang-ug where their small gold processing plant is just outside their residence. They work over eight hours a day.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said that the brothers are just two of an estimated 250 million child laborers all over the world. The Children’s Legal Bureau said RA 9231 or the Anti-Child Labor Law does not totally prohibit a minor from working. But it disallows them from dangerous work. The term “child labor” is associated with “illegal employment.”

My stand is that while there is need for us to motivate our youth about the value of work and to accept work as a virtue that each one of us should develop, still they should not deprived of the opportunity to live the life of growing children. I believe that our kids should be made to grow as normal children should, but extended proper guidance.

There is something in allowing children to work on tasks like gold mining, considering that in our distinctive environment gold mining is unique work. But parents and working adults should not lose sight of the kids’ need to learn and imbibe the basics of education and literacy.

Being able to know how to mine gold cannot equal the necessity of living a normal and literate life, such as being able to vote and being able to face up to an adult, educated community.

It is said that poverty often forces parents to let their children work at an early age, and that is true, too, especially in a country where about 20 percent of the population are in control of 80 percent of the cash in circulation in the country.

Thus, 80 percent of the people share among them 20 percent of the nation’s wealth.

Imagine how the 80 percent share the 20 percent pittance!

The impoverished 80 percent of our people are groveling in poverty, while the other 20 percent are happily in control of the 80 percent. Reminds us of the pork barrel scam.

This was the social reality I was made to accept about two decades ago regarding the make-up of the national society in our country. And I would like to believe that this portrait of the national society in 2014 has greatly changed.

My question now is, has this changed even just a bit? If it has, I hope the picture of the two kids mining gold this early in life is truly a unique one.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 01, 2014.


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