SPOTLIGHT: CHILDREN AT WORK When family’s livelihood comes first


source from nst, 01 Dec 2010,

THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD Nor Hafiza has the kind of smile that could melt the hardest of hearts. Her pretty face has an inquisitive and eager-to-please manner that endears her to anyone immediately.

She seems innocent and naive, yet mature at the same time. Her background may have something to do with her growing up too soon.

She smiles as she talks about how she wakes up every morning at five. From her home in a dilapidated squatter area in Sabah’s east coast town of Lahad Datu, where she lives with her mother and siblings, she takes a 20-minute walk.

This does not bring her to school, where she longs to be, but to a coffee shop in town, where she has been working as a waitress for a few months now.

She sweeps, mops, cleans, takes orders from customers and serves them food and drinks.

She works from 6am to 6pm six days a week and earns RM150 a month.

That’s more hours than what many adults put in, but Nor Hafiza doesn’t complain.

She took the job because she wanted to help her mother out. She used to go to school, but had to stop when the family could no longer afford it.

"My father works in a plantation in Tawau and I only see him a few times a year. I saw my mum trying to make ends meet and I just wanted to help her."

She is the sixth child out of nine children born to Indonesian parents. Her elder sisters, aged 15 and 18, also work.

"When I gave my mum my first salary, she asked me where I got the money from. When I told her about the job, she was a little shocked at first and said I was still too young. But eventually she said thank you.

"I think in the end, she was just relieved to have some extra income for the rest of my family."

Nor Hafiza dreams of becoming a teacher one day.

Salasiah Saldy, 14, is luckier.

She lives with her parents at an oil palm plantation with three of her siblings. Two of her elder siblings are studying in Indonesia, where her parents are from.

Like many of her classmates, she goes to school five days a week but on weekends and school holidays, she joins her parents on the plantation where she helps to gather harvested oil palm fruit.

"It’s not hard work. At least I get to go to school during the weekdays. Some of the other children don’t, because they cannot afford it or their parents want them to help on the fields," she said.

"Many children at plantations help their parents out this way. It’s not hard work, but the problem is they don’t get an education, which means a bleak future for them," said Borneo Child Aid project director Torben Venning.

Their 113 non-profit schools in the plantations and two in the urban areas provide primary education for more than 9,000 children, most of whom are children of the workers.

The schools are funded by oil palm companies and other corporations, and partly by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), which is also working with the task force, Teachers Foundation and the Education Ministry to set up an educational centre in Kota Kinabalu for about 200 refugee, stateless and undocumented children.

"Child labour robs the child of the opportunity of education," said Unicef representative to Malaysia, Hans Olsen.

"Most of them live in remote areas and have no access to school facilities. Those who live in towns may not have documents, so they cannot go to formal school. We have to solve this, even though it is not easy."

Read more: <b>SPOTLIGHT: CHILDREN AT WORK</b><br>When family’s livelihood comes first http://www.nst.com.my/nst/articles/13kid2/Article/#ixzz175YUyCLp

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