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Child Labor - Child’s Play?


The Augustinian Mirror - Vol78No1.pdf — PDF document, 3838 kB (3930330 bytes)



Published in the December 2011 issue of The Augustinian Mirror,  the official student magazine of the University of San Agustin in Iloilo  City. For more information about this publication, please visit their website. Download resource file above to get the printed version of this article. You may view the full copy of December 2011 issue from this link. 


Child Labor - Child's Play?

By Kim Eric J. Del Rosario, The Augustinian Mirror


A ruler, cartolina, some pens, and a worn out text book among a shabby table a seemingly undernourished boy, named Jayson, is crouching on and what seemed to be intended as a vegetable stand; he is fixated on the text he is devotedly scribbling on the bright colored cartolina among the buzzing noises of the supermarket. His thoughts appear to be that of being in a school library within a place of poignant odor of fish stains floating in the air, however, this illusion is popped back into a reality upon the intervention of a costumer. The diligent boy is now back to being a market clerk who vends market commodities in a humbly dilapidated stall inside the Iloilo Supermarket serving as the primary source of their family income while his parents slumber.

The Structural Functionalist’s Point of View in Sociology, as one of the points of view on how society should be viewed as a whole, looks at the roles of individuals and how they play it in order to harmonize with their society and build it. In this case, an architect designs the safety of infrastructures; an accountant is in-charge of managing the finances; and a medical doctor is responsible for ascertaining physical conditions. A minor, like Jayson, has the role of finishing his formal studies to earn a potential function in society. However, society is more complex than portraying a group of people with absolute and specific roles; some individuals exist with multiple roles, and most likely cause them role conflict wherein the nature of both roles contradicts its functions.

Children like Jayson needs to be afforded of a decent and unhampered education at their age. Intervening factors like work is a conflict to their true function in society, however, it is poverty that drives these conflicts.

Most often minors are treated as immature and not being able to contribute to society, however, children like Jayson show the contrary. Like adults they are compelled at a young age to think maturely for their survival and for the attempt to lighten their state of poverty.

“They (children) are not allowed to work here. They would only act as niusance here. Some of the market vendors even drive them away. But there are a few who would serve as secondary aid, but they are the children of the vendors and workers themselves,” relates Manong Jo, a fish vendor.

Jayson Lopez, 13 years old, a student at A. Bonifacio High School, Ledesma, is the eldest of three siblings. Being both a student and a storekeeper, he sees to it that he kept things well organized from his school assignments up to the veggies he vends. Meticulously tending to the stall’s finances, he is wary of getting and exchanging the right amount of money, otherwise he had to answer for the deficits and the consequences of his family’s state of poverty. Regularly, he works at his family stalls every weekend, and some hours after his school as he is often obliged by his parents or does it by his own freewill.

Besides Jayson there are also some children who clerked in market stalls. Some would even occasionally go to all the trouble of lifting heavy loads of commodities for their stalls.

“There are many of us around here, some are even blood related. Just a few stalls away from here are my cousins,” Jayson depicts.

Further into the recesses of the wet market, a boy nicknamed ‘Dodoy’ was carrying a sack filled with market commodities which seemed to be twice as heavy as his body weight. “He is a shy one,” says his companion. He would appear to look like an 11 or 13 year old judging from his size. Obliged to watch over their family business in the market, he gave up schooling.

Similar to ‘Jayson’s’ scenario is ‘Rizalde’, a 14 year old, who he peddles fishball around the schools in Leganes, Iloilo, only that he is in a more severe state. Carrying a modified trisikad that nearly weighs about 20 kilos or more, this frail figure is often seen trudging the fracture-laden roads of Jereos Extension in Lapaz in the late hours of the night finishing a day’s work and retreating to his home in Sinikway.

Pinned down by poverty, He aborted enrolling for second year high school last June 2011 with the promise of catching some breath before continuing the arduous journey of education into becoming a future law enforcer. He has spurned away the inessentials at an early age for the success of his honest labor. Not minding other children enjoying their childhood, he decided to take up the peddling wheels.

The rumbling noise of heavy metal attached in his trisikad and the dim light hanging in its roofing surely catches attention in the evening especially the small frail silhouette driving it. He peddles around the streets even in the night crediting the role of the eldest son who would act as the secondary bread winner for his father who earns as a security guard, shunning the dangers of the streets and the formidable weather condition that goes along with it.

“When I peddle in the afternoon, of course, there is the heat. Sometimes, when it rains, it is really troublesome to find shelter. But I had never mind the fatigue since it is for the profit,” shares Rizalde. “In some cases, I get frightened, most especially when I retreat homewards at night since the streets are full of danger now-a-days, but I am persevered in this.”

Finishing at night, he would usually earn, the least, 150 pesos as profit from a minimum of six hours of peddling fish-ball in a far flung area. He would recount his sales at his boss’ house where he would always prepare the peddling vehicle each day.

“When it comes to inventories, there should be no scams. Otherwise, I would still lose if the owner finds out because he will charge that on my next profit. Even father is strict regarding those things. Nonetheless, they are proud of me, and they see to it that they remain tight on my morals,” shares Rizalde.

A documentary film entitled Minsan Lang Sila Bata shows a similar scenario where role conflict among minorities is evident. It shows how a group of minorities do manual labor from skinning pig meat in the butchery up to being Kargadors (freight lifters) in sea ports, to earn a living for their family, and sadly, compromising their schooling. Children, like Rizalde and Jayson, are supposed to prioritize study at their age instead of having to sacrifice it to earn. That is their social function.

The National Statistics Office [at] presents that the Philippine’s out of school youth population in general not attending school has the following top three reasons (from least to greatest): ‘High cost of education’ with 19.9 percent; ‘lack of personal interest’ with 22 percent; and ‘looking for work’ with a general percentage of 30.5 percent. In this case, it would seem that employment in an early age is the solution to their ordeals. Poverty is a harsh reality that costs promising youths their futures. Nonetheless, there are many other ‘Jaysons’ and ‘Rizaldes’ out there.

Despite this tremendous display of maturity, the fact still remains that they are still children, and some of the hapless victims of poverty. Rizalde, with the frivolous desire of having to bring home merienda for his siblings and the promise of a better future through honest labor is one of the many children that earn them a better name. Having to work hard and think maturely at a ripe age, sets a gloom in their childhood, however, their toils urges for them a brighter sunrise for their future and for tomorrow’s generation.

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