Go to a bank, they are there waiting for you. Go to a petrol station and they hide behind pumps, waiting to pounce on you the moment you start filling your car’s tank up. Go to an ATM machine, they will be waiting outside. Go to a food court, they will come and push this worn out leaflet of an orphanage under your nose.
Malaysians are known to be philanthropic. As a Muslim, you are encouraged to give alms with the hope that God will reward you leaps and bounds. Sadly, it is Muslim children, mainly orphans whom you see are being exploited by the management of orphanages to solicit funds/donations from the general public. But is sending children out on their own, for long hours, for days at times, necessary?
The International Labour Organization defines Child Labour in Article 3 of ILO Convention No.182. It reads:
a) all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict;
(b) the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances;
(c) the use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties;
(d) work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.
Labour that jeopardises the physical, mental or moral well-being of a child, either because of its nature or because of the conditions in which it is carried out, is known as “hazardous work”.
The words I have put in bold are the ones, in my opinion, reflect the nature of labour these unfortunate orphans are being put through. My question is, what are the authorities doing about this?
In March 2012, Datuk Heng Seai Kei, the Deputy Minister for Women, Family and Community Development said that continuous effort has been taken by the North-South Highway Project (PLUS) with the cooperation of the Social Welfare Department to curb the abuse of orphans by the management of orphanages along the North-South highway. Apart from that, the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) has asked the respective state religious authorities to arrest those who exploit children and orphans by asking them to solicit funds. He said this when answering Dungun MP, Datuk Matulidi Jusoh in Parliament when the latter asked about the actions taken against errant Orphanages and Tahfiz centers that have been exploiting children and orphans.
I think the authorities need to get their act together. Local authorities are more keen on raiding and confiscating stalls belonging to small-time business owners than stopping child exploitation, and members of the public need to realize that they should start asking these children when do they ever get to study, or if they like walking around in the heat of the sun, or late at night, asking for donations that they never get to see at the end of their “shift.”
These children are innocent, and asking them to solicit funds for orphanages is NOT the way to hone their entrepreneurial skills. The one I saw at the ESSO station along the North-South highway was virtually there every day. The one I questioned two nights ago had loitered around my favourite food court for the past two weeks. When do they ever get to go to class? When do they sleep? Where do they sleep? What do they get to eat at the end of their “working day?”
And do you ever wonder how many of these children have been sexually harassed by predators as they are left at a location for hours and have to fend for themselves?
And what do these children learn?
Every time they piss someone off for disturbing them while they eat or fill up their tank, they incur the wrath of the restaurant’s or petrol station’s customer. And it is possible that if they do not get enough “fund” they get punished. In the end, the only lesson with impact these children will ever learn is resentment and anger. Now, whose fault is that?
Unless you don’t mind seeing your children end up like in the picture above if something unfortunate happens to you, then you can stop reading this blog post and move on. But to this blogger, the authorities, especially the religious authorities, have a lot to answer for this Halal child labour.
UPDATED (12.10PM – 29th July 2012)
One comment on my Facebook account on this issue has prompted me to update this post:
Unfortunately, in many cases the parents of the children are not aware of them being used by whatever tahfiz or madrasah to collect alms or to sell trinkets. Do you also notice that most of the time the madrasah or tahfiz is in Kedah or Kelantan, unregistered and not in the Malaysian Education System, nor supported by the state governments. Short of saying they are operating illegally, the children are also not insured nor officially registered in those institutions. There was one case when the rickety van the children were in was involved in a crash, killing 4 kids and the Ustadz. The parents were shocked to hear that the children was brought to KL from Kedah without consent, to beg for alms. For the record, I am totally against this, and I often question the children as to why they were there selling posters instead of studying – Farid Hamid. 8.12am, 29th July 2012
I remember that incident. This happened a little over five and a half years ago. Five students from a Tahfiz in Kedah died after the van they were traveling in, hit the back of a stationary trailer, on their way back to Kedah after an “excursion” in KL. None of the parents were informed of the trip to KL, nor was their permission sought by the management of the “Tahfiz.” You can read about it here. And yes, the “excursion” to KL was for them to be used by the management of the “Tahfiz” to solicit funds from the public. You can read about it here.
Seriously, the authorities need to come down hard on these culprits.