Unicef, CSDO infuse new life in marginalised kids

SIALKOT - Nobody can gainsay the fact that children are the most important part of a society. It is correct that a child is the father of man. If children are brought up on healthy lines and are given their rights, strong, hale and hearty generations come into being. The societies that paid full attention to childrens training and upbringing on appropriately setlines made astounding progress that baffled other societies. The history of the World is full of such examples. These nations brightened their future and won distinctions and their names are written in history. On the other hand those that neglected the children fell instead of rising and dwindled into nothingness. The optimistic role of developed societies reflects that education is a vital instrument for rising of a nation and its all round development. Under the present scenario, education has become very important for bringing revolutionary changes in every sphere of life. Human history bears witness to the fact that it was lack of educational facilities, greed on part of the parents, and trend of cheap labour, which increased the lust for benefit of the traders and industrialists and all these factors promoted the menace of child labour and other child protection issues. Now the situation has totally changed globally and nations are struggling for complete elimination of child labour from industrial sector and domestic sector, and protecting the childs rights under the United Nations Charter. Child and Social Development Organization (CSDO), Sialkot, is an offshoot of the Atlanta Agreement signed by UNICEF, ILO, and SCCI on 14th February 1997 to eliminate child labour in the Soccer ball Industry of Sialkot-Pakistan. It is an independent NGO established by the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCI) in consensus with UNICEF and ILO to carry forward Social Protection and Rehabilitation component of the Atlanta Agreement. UNICEF, ILO, WFSGI, FIFA, SCCI and all Soccer ball manufacturers participating in Child Labour Elimination Programme (CLEP) have been fully supporting CSDO since its inception (year 2002). Membership of CSDO is mandatory for all CLEP members which is a major source of strength to this organization. The other industrialists and women entrepreneurs of the City have also started taking interest in getting membership and activities of CSDO as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility. CSDO has been implementing UNICEF sponsored Child & Adolescents Protection Project in Sialkot and its adjacent districts; Gujranwala and Narowal since May 2009. The Project has been very successful and received immense appreciation locally and internationally. Social mobilization, and community participation, Formal and non-formal education, Psycho-social support to children and their families, Vocational skills, Conditional cash grant for education for poorest of the poor children and Children participation and empowerment are the key components of the project. The District Government, Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and its Women Entrepreneurs Cell, the Business Community of Sialkot especially Soccer ball manufacturers have been providing every possible support to the project since its beginning (year 2009). In a short span of time, with support of UNICEF, CSDO is achieving its cherished goal of enrolling working and out-of-school children. In this connection eighteen non-formal education centers namely Talim-ul- Amal Centers (TACs) have been established in the backward areas of Sialkot and its adjacent districts; Gujranwala and Narowal. In these centers, currently, around 1,200 working/out-of-school children of the past are getting quality education and are being kept away from undesirable activities. Identification and enrollment of more working/out-of-school children in the Centers is in progress. Eight hundred forty (840) children have been mainstreamed in formal schools from these Centers. 1,460 children mostly 5-7 years of age, have been enrolled in formal schools directly. These children are being monitored regularly to prevent dropout. CSDO has setup a unique example by bringing the children of junk collectors into schools. This is an extraordinary success of the project. CSDO team is playing a tremendous role in mobilizing the members of the community and parents for the protection of children. Though, it was a tough task in this materialistic era because poor parents usually prefer that their kids do something to earn as compared to education. This tendency generates many sensitive issues like domestic labour, child labour, forced labour and child abuse as well as social evils. The hallmark of the programme was to eradicate illiteracy and child labour of all sorts from the society. CSDO had set up a unique precedent by mobilizing and through social dialogues with the Junk Collectors families about the utility of education. Ultimately, the junk collectors families decided to send their children to education centers established by CSDO under the UNICEF sponsored above said project. Its a miracle because this community has its own rules and regulations as well as a nomadic life style. During a visit to one TAC centre it was observed that these children (totally ignored in the past) are showing their excellent performance in the centre. By virtue of a spade work CSDO has attained the impossible. This precedent is rare in the history of Sialkot or even in the country. The service of UNICEF and CSDO in this connection is of historical proportion and would be remembered for all times to come. This may well pave the way for others to replicate same model in other parts of the country. According to the teachers of the centre the enrolled children of Junk Collectors families are fast learners and have the capacity of maximum learning. There are a few cases of slow learners but are fit and eager to imbibe the lesson by learning through trial and error, the teachers said According to field visits by the writer, here are some success stories of children who were involved in labour/out-of-school before starting Child & Adolescents Protection Project. Sixteen years old Miss Nazish Khalid, now a student of Talim-ul-Amal Center Alhar situated in Tehsil Pasrur of Sialkot, has passed grade 8 Board Examination in year 2011. She dropped out from grade 6 due to poverty. She left the job of house maid and joined the Center in year 2009 despite serious financial constrain to fulfill her dream to become educated and to support her family members in a better way. Nazish said that her ultimate goal is to become fashion designer after completing her education. She has also availed vocational training of stitching and embroidery. After school timing, she stitches clothes to support her family financially. Her teachers are very happy and foresee that she will be an excellent fashion designer in future because she has ability to do what she thinks and the ability of original designing as well as modification according to her wish. Nazish further told that her whole family was engaged with domestic labour for earning livelihood and she also joined the hands with her family on weekend.

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