Government Policy

Children forced to earn money to support their families

DHAKA, Jan 21, 2017 (BSS) - As the clock struck 7:00 am, most children are busy wearing school dresses, taking breakfast and going out of home with school bags in their shoulders.

But an opposite picture also exists in the society. When Yasin was supposed to go to school like other children he was forced to earn money to support his family.

Just after waking up at dawn, the ten-year-old boy Yasin Ahmed starts walking from Hazaribagh, where he lives. He has to arrive at Shahbagh by 6:30am to buy flowers from the wholesale market.

"I buy flowers from here at a comparatively lower price, and then sell those throughout the day to commuters," he said.

Yasin mainly roams around the Dhaka University (DU) campus throughout the day and his prime target customers are the couples, both university students and outsiders, who visit the campus.

Whenever he sees a couple, he rushes there and offers them to buy flowers as saying, "Apa, would you buy a flower; Vaiyya, would you buy a flower garland."

"Many of them behave politely to me and buy flowers. In contrary, I get harsh behaviors from many others," he said, adding that he faces the most cruel behavior of his mother.

If Yasin fails to sell flowers as per his mother's expected-level and fails to earn the desired money, his mother often assaults him physically. Yasin was stating his miseries to the reporter at TSC (Teacher-Student Centre, University of Dhaka) area on one evening of the first week of January.

With tears rolling down his cheeks, Yasin said his mother, who is also a flower vendor in the same area, kept him starving as he could not sell enough flower on that day.

"I give all the money, which I earn by selling flowers, to my mother. Then my mother gives me some penny to take food. As I have failed today to fulfill her desire, she did not give me any money to eat," he muttered in angry tones.

Although the boy is deprived of even primary education, he can accurately calculate his trading just like an efficient accountant.

"Usually, I sell flowers worth around Tk 250 to 300. My mother comes down on me heavily, if I fail to sell even Tk 200," he said.

Not only Yasin, rather anyone can meet over a dozen of similar children in the DU campus, who also earn money by selling flowers.

Like Yasin, Shanto, Sumaiyya, Bilkis and Ahsan pass their days on streets with many difficulties, even starving or half-hungry. But they cannot give up dreaming.

"I want to go to school. I want to be educated and I want to be a doctor," said Sumaiyya Islam, also a flower vendor.

They want support from government, NOGs and affluent persons of the society.

Although no accurate statistics is available on how many street children are in Bangladesh, a senior official of the ministry of Women and Children Affairs said it can be estimated that there are around 1 lakh street children in Bangladesh.

Some 70 percent of them live in the capital, said Abul Hossain, deputy secretary of the ministry.

"We have initiated a programme to rehabilitate and provide education to these children," he told the reporters.

Under the Street Children Rehabilitation Programme, the government has set up two rehabilitation centres -- one in Karwan Bazar and another in Kamalapur -- where the children can get free food and education, he informed.

Talking to the journalist, several child rights activists pushed for coordinated efforts from government and non-government bodies to ensure proper education, accommodation, healthcare service and other social services to these working children on streets.

These children are vulnerable to be abused by vested quarters. In the past there were several examples of working children on streets who were abused for drug peddling, arms carrying, prostitution and mugging.

If these huge numbers of street children can be properly rehabilitated and educated, they would be able to make valuable contribution to the society.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)