SIALKOT: God willing, every child will now go to school in Punjab.

Provincial Minister for Labour and Human Resources Raja Ashfaq Sarwar sounded upbeat while launching the ‘Elimination of Child and Bonded Labour Project’ at the auditorium of the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) on Thursday.

The integrated project is for the promotion of decent work for vulnerable workers of the district.

Social activist Shaheen Ateequr Rehman cautioned the government to arrange a ‘need-based training system’ for the children of vulnerable segments.

The project is already working in Gujranwala, Sheikhupura, Hafizabad, Okara, Khanewal, Multan, Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawalnagar and Dera Ghazi Khan districts.

The minister said Sialkot was selected for the project due to the global projection of its industrial significance and local exporters’ role in elimination of child labour from the soccer ball industry in 1997 under the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

He said the project would help the government eradicate child and bonded labour and rehabilitation of freed labourers and their families through coordination among provincial departments and district offices and with the collaboration of ILO.

He said the the Punjab government was trying to make Punjab a child labour-free zone by strengthening legislation on child and bonded labour, besides, ensuring the strict implementation on laws.

The minister said 257,000 children (aged 5 to 13 years) would complete their primary education breaking the cycle of poverty, while 118,000 others (aged 14 to 18 years) would become literate and skilled in several trades. Up to 100,000 families will be economically empowered under the project. Also, 52,000 brick kilns’ workers will have their computerized national identity cards, while another 150,000 kiln workers will get their social security cards in Punjab under the project.

He said 720 model work places would be developed in Punjab to improve the working conditions in the formal sector.

He pledged to reduce the time period to issue cheques for marriage and death grants and talents scholarships to the workers and their dependents.

He said the beneficiaries of the project be inducted in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as well.

The minister spoke high of the Child and Social Development Organisation for providing quality education to 1,500 nomad, marginalised and garbage picking children at organisation-run schools in Sialkot. The schools are under the joint supervision of the SCCI and the Punjab Education Foundation.

Ms Rehman stressed the need for promoting “need-based trainings” to make them useful citizens of society. She said the children freed from the child and bonded labour must be given industrial training.

Provincial Labour Secretary Suhail Shahzad said “need-based trainings” for the child labourers would be designed by the National Vocational and Technical Training Commission.

He said 100,730 children were in bonded labour across Punjab, of them, 70 per cent had been enrolled in primary education programmes.

SCCI President retired Maj Mansur Ahmed urged individuals to work for the elimination of child labour and bonded labour.

District Coordination Officer Dr Asif Tufail, Project Director Dr Saeed Ahmed Wattoo, Campaign for Child Labour Free Coordinator Mirza Abdul Shakoor and District Coordinator of Child Rights Committee Muhammad Arslan Khan were present.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2016