Working Children of Ebrahim Hydari - Myths and Realities

Summary: This report provides the socio-economic
profile of working children in Ebrahim
Hydari. The purpose of the report is to
develop a programme offering literacy
and vocational skills to working

This report provides the socio-economic profile of working children
in Ebrahim Hydari. The purpose of the report is to develop a
programme offering literacy and vocational skills to working
children. The research project was initially undertaken to:

1) develop an understanding of the community's socio-economic profile
of Ebrahim Hydari;

2) determine the prevalence of child labour;

3) determine why children are engaged in paid and unpaid work;

4) determine the types of work being carried out by working children;

5) determine the social and economic needs of working children

6) formulate a plan for providing services to working children based
on identified needs,

The findings of the study have, however, shown the need for the
development of a programme with a wider focus than working children.

Key Findings

· If children were to be classified by academic and work background,
Ebrahim Hydari's children could be categorised into four groups
namely (i) school-going, (ii) school-going and working, (iii)
working, and (iv) neither working nor going to school. Group iv, for
easier expression in this study, have been termed as para children
i.e. children who are basically spending a majority of their time at
home or in the lanes of the goth.
The study shows that the para children show the highest prevalence in
Ebrahim Hydari; nearly 40 per cent households had at least one para

The prevalence of working children in the sample was 7.0 per cent. In
other words, in the 664 households surveyed there were 1308 children
in the age group 6-13 years. Of these, only 91 children were working.
There was atleast one working child in 79 households.

· A major difference in the male female children was the low
percentage of working girls. Less than two per cent girls were
working in comparison to 7.5 per cent boys.

· The types of trades reported in which boys were employed included
work around the fisheries trade (72.0 per cent). Others were working
in shops as watch-boys, donkey-cart drivers, helpers in tea shops and
small cafeterias, and cleaners. Girls were working as prawn cleaners,
domestic servants, embroidery workers, seashells handicraft makers,
and cleaners.

· One of the most critical areas which came to light was the high
illiteracy rate. Nearly 55 per cent of the goth children had no form
of education. Similarly, 71 per cent of adults of Ebrahim Hydari had
no formal education.

The percentage of school-going children was abysmally low: only 14.5
per cent households had at least one child attending school, and
another 13.7 per cent had two children going to school.

The two most commonly given reasons by mothers and fathers for their
children not attending school were: (i) children did not want to
attend school and, (ii) lack of money. Reasons for children not
attending school included the rough treatment given to children by
their teachers. In addition, a much-stated reason was the dana.
Children who had once taken to the fishing trade were not willing to
do anything else. Numerous parents claimed that even beating the
children had no results:
children do not want to go to school. People of Ebrahim Hydari did
not have surplus money all year round. Problems in cash flow were
cited as another reason why children do not attend school. In
addition, on average, there were three children of school going age
per household, and parents could not afford to send all their
children to school.

· Parents did not seem to have any objection to their children
studying. However, with respect to girls attending school, cultural
norms and practices were a major reason for girls not attending
school. Another major complaint included the limited job market for
the educated children of the goth. Generally parents were unwilling
to lay the fault completely at the teachers' door.

· Some of the most important community leaders of Ebrahim Hydari were
teachers. However, largely it was this group, especially the male
teachers which proved to be the most difficult to access.

According to the teachers, critical problems in school education
were: (i) children's attention towards schooling; (ii) parents'
attitude towards education; (iii) children's attitude toward
teachers, and (iv) barriers faced by children in coming to school.

An immense cultural and educational divide existed between the
teachers and the community. A majority of the school teachers in the
government schools, as well as the private schools, came from outside
the goth. These teachers were from a thoroughly urban background (in
Karachi), coming from middle to lower-middle income households. In
addition, most of these teachers were from ethnic background other
than found in Ebrahirn Hydari, and had little in common with the
cultural values of the goth community

· More serious complaints by children were made about the boys'
schools. Many children had been in school at one time or the other,
and nearly all refused to go back to a teaching enviromnent.

· Employers who came from migrant or minority populations were far
more supportive of the idea of an educational centre than the
indigenous population of Ebrahim Hydari. In general employers were
supportive of the idea of children being provided education and
vocational skills.

· With over-fishing a looming problem, the livelihood of the fishing
community, was considered to be at risk. About 34 trawlers were
fishing around the international water boundary, and they were
creating immense problems for the small and medium sized fishing
boats. If these practices were to continue, the entire fishing
communities' livelihood would shortly be at stake. Even at present,
many boats going out on the sea were coming back with small catches.

· Although the economic activity of the goth is totally hinged to the
fisheries, and household economics are fairly unstable, people still
do not necessarily observe prudent practices of saving for leaner
times. The concept of saving is rudimentary and finding regular means
of income is not necessarily a priority with the population.

· Another issue is the cultural divide existi within Ebrahim Hydari.
The presence of 64 paras, distinct ethnic groups and nearly a hundred
castes indicate the importance given to these divides.

For any education centred programme in Ebrahim Hydari the main
challenge would be to create a cooperative atmosphere between the
school system children and the community. The recomendations,
therefore, have been based on the ' areas of concern, i.e. (i) the
existing education system; (ii) practices in the most prominent trade
(fisheries) and their impact on the long term economic and social
sustainability of community, and (iii) the earning power of
economically active women as well as cmi invisibility of the women in
the community

Two major programmes that could be startE and with children include a
Children's Advocacy Group (CAG) and a Functional Literacy gramme

1. Formation of Children Advocacy Groups (CAG)

Children activism needs to be encourage organisation to be
spearheaded by children should be formed to carry out research on the
inequitable practices affecting the future of the children. However
it is important to point out that considerable adult support is
likely to be required on all the issues the group may have to
address. It is unrealistic to think that children alone will be able
to address all issues on hand and to solve and advocate on problems
in which they are only one stakeholder.

Critical challenges which the advocacy group will have to face
include the following:

To address the issues in the present formal educational system, the
Ebrahim Hydari children need, first, come to an understanAing of
their grievances as well as their own shortcoming with respect to the
school system; second, they will have to involve their parents and
other adults in the community, using a similar assessment strategy
and, finally, the teachers need to be brought into the dialogue.

Linkages between the Children's Advocacy Group and the Functional
Literacy Programme need to be created so that each could benefit from
the other.

To promote sustainable methods of fishing in order to safeguard the
long-term viability of the fisheries trade for their own future
livelihood, food security, and sustainability of the eco-system.

To promote girls' participation in community development through the
formation of a separate wing of the Children's Advocacy Programme

2. Implement a Functional Literacy Programme (FLP)

A Functional Literacy Programme will provide learning ground for
improving attitudes of children
toward a learning environment. The beneficiaries of this programme
would be working children, but could include para children.

The FLP would provide an opportunity for children to (a) attain
functional literacy, (b) learn a specific skill and, (c) voluntarily
enter the formal education system.

Learning done by FLP would feed into the CAG activities.

3. Women Income Generation Programmes and Advocacy

The high level of invisibility and poor working conditions of women
need special attention. The CAG girl child wing should work for
improved working conditions (including increased pay) of women and
children. A special focus of attention needs to be girls and women
working in the prawn-cleaning sector.

A complimentary income generating activity could be identified for
the women.

4. Co-ordination Committee

The above recommendations show that a number of programmes need to be
managed for and by the children of Ebrahim Hydari. In order to
streamline the activities of various groups, a co-ordination
committee should be formed whose members represent the organisations
working in the development sector in Ebrahim Hydari. The committee
could be responsible for policy development and strategic management
of the programmes to be undertaken. A project coordinator needs to be
appointed to manage the activities of the co-ordination committee.

Owner: Save the Children and Institute of Social Research



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