Protecting the most vulnerable children is a pending issue in the world. Displaced minors face challenges and governments do not guarantee their rights in countries of transit or destination. In recent months, hundreds of minors have fled from Taliban control in Afghanistan. One of the destination countries was Pakistan, where more than three million Afghan refugees, half of them minors, live in extreme poverty and have the lowest levels of literacy.
Pakistan opened its doors to Afghans 40 years ago, but has done little to regularize the situation of refugees from the neighboring country.
Since the first wave of exiles in the 1990s, with the Soviet invasion, more than three million Afghans have settled, many have been born on Pakistani soil, but without the right to citizenship. This disadvantaged situation in which refugees live, especially minors, who represent half of this population, makes them more vulnerable and they are trapped in the cycle of poverty and child exploitation. Afghan children are victims of begging, forced labor, child marriage and domestic violence.
One more example of child exploitation is brick factories where financially distressed refugees end up, desperate to pay the hospital bill or medicine, or the rent they offer to their children as cheap labor or as collateral for money. repay an early loan. Sometimes children inherit their parents’ debts and are tied to forced labor for a long time. Although the stipulated minimum wage is 950 rupees (approximately $ 8) a day, these children work for less than a dollar a day.
While the Pakistani government allows Afghan children to go to school, socio-economic barriers themselves keep them away from schools. The poor quality of public education, gender discrimination in these traditional societies, and inaccessibility to schools for those living in rural areas, who represent more than 65%, contribute to the lack of education for Afghan refugees. As a result, 80% of Afghans of school age do not go to school in Pakistan. This vicious cycle particularly affects girls, further limiting access to primary and secondary education for future generations.
Despite the United Nations pressuring the Pakistani government to initiate efforts to educate Afghan minors, the few opportunities to study are provided by local organizations or religious charities. It is an informal education that helps some of these children to get off the street to have a better future. This is the case of Ali, who altruistically teaches a group of children from the Rawalpindi camps, outside Islamabad. Thanks to his school, fifty boys and girls have learned to read and write.