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Education key to eradicating child labour in Myanmar

Poverty and the lack of education opportunities are pushing Myanmar's children to work in potentially dangerous environments, such as construction sites and in the fields.

YANGON: Myanmar is celebrating the annual World Day Against Child Labour for the first time.

It only ratified the global "Worst Forms of Child Labour" convention last December.

While there are still no official child labour statistics for Myanmar, non-government groups here say a growing number of children are being denied an education.

Child labour isn't simply about having children work for pocket money in part-time jobs.

According to the International Labour Organization, "child labour" is defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that's harmful to physical and mental development.

Steve Marshall, Myanmar liaison officer at the International Labour Organization, said: "Children are leaving school far too early and they are getting whatever work they can. They are either too young to enter the workforce or it is the extreme forms of labour which are seriously damaging for their minds or their bodies in terms of their ongoing development.

He cited the use of child soldiers in conflict areas as an example of extreme child labour.

In a country of 60 million people, 26 per cent live on less than two dollars a day.

Poverty pushes Myanmar's children to work in potentially dangerous environments, such as construction sites and in the fields.

Myint Swe, president of Ratana Metta Organization explained: "Because of family poverty, for most of our community, their incomes are very low. They can't support education and nutrition to their own children so that is why child labour is more and more in Myanmar.

“If we want to solve this child labour problem, it’s not only for the children but also their parents and their guardians' poverty that we have to solve."

By far the most pressing need, NGOs say, is for authorities to remove children from harsh work environments, and then attempt to change attitudes about the importance of an education by improving the education system.

NGOs are encouraged that the government is finally recognising the problem and wanting to tackle it. However, others say the government isn't doing enough and quickly enough.

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