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Interview of a Pakistani child labourer

We come across so many lives everyday and yet no one takes few minutes to think about them and their trials. Today I’ll be sharing the story of Zubair Khalid, a 10 year old boy who sells balloons outside a fast food restaurant in Faisalabad that I came across.

One day, while going back home, he came to my car which was passing by to beg. Immediately a thought popped up in my mind that he must be hungry, lets feed him and try to understand his reason for having to sell balloons at this tender age.

I started to interview him with few basic things as an introduction. I discovered his mother is a housewife and his father is a labourer who fits tiles in homes which are under construction.

Sometimes he gets work & sometimes he doesn’t. He earns around 600-1000 rupees per day depending on work.

Zubair has studied till 6th class in a private school near his home. Earlier his father would pay all his expenses of education but due to continuous unemployment & financial crisis, he & his 7 year old younger brother who have studied till 3 class had to leave school.

After leaving school, Zubair immediately joined a silk mill where he used to work on a stitching machine from 8am-5pm and used to earn only 3500 rupees per month.

Due to low pay he left that job a while ago & now he sometimes sells balloons and sometimes sells toys on main roads of Faisalabad and earns 600-700rupees/day now, which is way more than he used to earn in silk mill.

Although now he has to face more hardships as his father drops him outside the fast food restaurant in evening, but he picks him only sometimes and sometimes he has to sleep all night in a park nearby.

I wanted this kid to go to school as I could see spark in his eyes, so I asked him why won’t he go to a government school? His reply was “I went there, too, but just survived there for 15 days as my teacher used to beat a lot. My whole hand & arm was badly injured by his beating and he even broke my arm”.

He claims that it wasn’t his fault as another kid of his class committed an error but lied to teacher and blamed Zubair so teacher brutally punished him for the mistake he hadn’t done. Analogous to a burst balloon, his hopes of being educated despite all odds lay on the floor.

I further interrogated Zubair about his family, this time specifically about his siblings. He said he has 2 sisters & 4 more brothers. One of his sister is married & the second one stays at home. His youngest brother is newly born and is just 2 years old, whereas his 2 elder brothers work. One of his elder brother is a rickshaw driver who earns around 800-900rupees/day but according to Zubair he doesn’t give a single rupee of earning to his parents even after their repeated requests.

He spends all of his money in buying new clothes for himself. His second elder brother works in a men’s salon in Lahore & like his elder brother he also doesn’t helps his family & spend all of his money on himself. When I asked him about his eldest brother’s whereabouts, he replied with a sad answer that his eldest brother is no more in this world. He was a 27 year old policemen who died in 2013 in a terrorist attack.

Even after his martyrdom, Zubair still wanted to join Police force in place of his eldest brother as he is very passionate about joining police, and moreover his parents want him to join, too.

After spending around 90 minutes, I decided to conclude the interview as I got ample information & his reasons behind becoming a bread earner at such young age.

Thus, my last question to Zubair was, “do you miss school?” With high hopes he replied “If someone can pay my school fees, I will definitely go to school. I want to study, I want to get educated. My mother says, wait son, as our financial condition will improve. Then we will admit you & your brother to school once again.”

My main purpose of such interviews of these under privileged children is to discover their plight and actual cause owing to which they get involved in child labor & quit school without even basic matriculation. While researching I discovered family issues & poverty plays a vital role in majority of these cases.

When I understand both, I quietly ponder to myself, what kind of a generation are we building? Why is it so difficult for our children to gain basic literacy in today’s times? Its heart wrenching to learn that this world is going towards nothing but doom by murdering the hopes of the young like this!

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