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COVID and School Closures: Bringing Mental Health to the Forefront

[Note: COVID-related school closures have meant many children around the world have been thrust prematurely into child labor. In many cases, the closures have also meant children have lost access to resources like free or subsidized meals and mental health services.]

By Jonathan Todres, Georgia State University

October 10th marks World Mental Health Day. Although international days typically do not get much coverage in the United States, World Mental Health Day deserves attention this year due to the significant impact of COVID-19.

In the United States, the epicenter of the pandemic, COVID-19 related job losses, looming evictions, school closures, social isolation, and related issues have spurred stress, anxiety, depression, and other adverse mental health consequences.

The mental and behavioral health consequences have been particularly significant for single-parent families and families with young children. More broadly, evidence suggests that the pandemic is causing an increase in the number of children with mental health issues and worsening children’s existing mental health issues. In addition, COVID-19 related school closings have disrupted children’s access to mental health services. As reported in JAMA Pediatrics, “[A]mong adolescents who received any mental health services during 2012 to 2015, 35% received their mental health services exclusively from school settings.”

The short- and long-term mental health consequences of the pandemic are profound. Although the CARES Act included some funding for mental health services, the second round of stimulus is bogged down in political fighting while children and families continue to suffer. The delays in meeting children’s mental health needs could alter children’s life trajectories.… Read the rest

A 14-Year-Old Mulls “The Price of Freedom” and Decides to Engage in the Battle to End Child Labor

By Nikeeta Singh

Nikeeta Singh is a 14-year-old student in New Delhi, India.

 

It is said that childhood is the best gift given to us by God. Everything is different when you’re a child: the trees are higher, the colours are more vivid than ever, and every new day is a new opportunity.

However, childhood is not the same for all. For some it is waking up at six in the morning and working till the sun sets; it is staying away from your parents to earn minimum wages; it is working in inhumane environments in hopes of a brighter future. This is the reality of child labour.

Nikeeta Singh

Child labour is experienced by every one in ten children around the globe. At the age when children should worry about their marks they are worrying about their health and economic status. But how can we blame these innocent angels? Uneducated parents are one of the major sources that contribute to child labour. It is the children of poor and marginalized communities who are often trafficked and forced into labour. Parents of these children are either betrayed or lured into schemes due to their lack of awareness and poor socio-economic conditions, forcing them to send or sell their children for better livelihood options. Traffickers promise daily wages to parents of young children and transport them to big cities where they are often treated as commodities. Families in dire financial conditions are can be approached by traffickers with an offer to buy their children, and with no other escape from their pitiful conditions, parents comply.

One of the major effects of child labour on children is losing access to education. Every day, some 218 million children around the world go to work instead of school—152 million are trapped in child labour (work which harms their development). Education is the route out of poverty for many children. It gives them a chance to gain the knowledge and skills needed to improve their lives; however, many a times their education is treated as a luxury, not a necessity.

In India, there is a great need for convergence and implementation of comprehensive child protection mechanisms. Indian children are exposed to multiple vulnerabilities. With thousands of children still working in brick kilns, construction sites, and agricultural land, trafficking for the sake of forced child labour is widely prevalent. Apart from this, horrific stories emerge daily of girls as young as 9 years old being forced into the sex trade. Apart from this, children are also sold by their parents to work in factories and industries in toxic environments that are highly dangerous.

“If a child is denied education and forced to work instead, violence has been inflicted,” noted Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi. “If a child and its parents are denied opportunities for a promising tomorrow, violence has been inflicted. If a child reels under poverty, violence has been inflicted. If obstacles are laid in the path of a child, inhibiting her progress and development, violence has been inflicted.”

As evil of a sin child labour is, there have been many improvements. Organisations such as Child Rights and You (CRY), CHILDLINE India Foundation, Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation, the International Labour Organisation and numerous others have taken up the initiative to ensure that every child in the world is free, safe, healthy, receives quality education, and has the opportunity to realise their potential.

Today, as we speak 100 million children have fallen prey to child labour. The current COVID-19 pandemic can potentially increase the number and further aggravate the problem in regions where child labour has been more resistant to policy and programme measures. The level of global economic integration and the current crisis are likely to have a large and possibly lasting worldwide adverse socio-economic and financial impact.

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Why child labour cannot be forgotten during COVID-19

By Jacobus de Hoop, Eric Edmonds

This article originally appeared on UNICEF’s web site on May 14, 2020.

In just a matter of weeks, the COVID-19 outbreak has already had drastic consequences for children. Their access to education, food, and health services has been dramatically affected across the globe. The impact has been so marked, that the UN Secretary General has urged governments and donors to offset the immediate effects of the COVID-19 crisis on children.

In discussions of the pandemic to date, child labour (i.e. forms of work that are harmful to children) has played only a marginal role. Yet, as we describe in this blog, child labour will be an important coping mechanism for poor households experiencing COVID-related shocks. As global poverty rises, so too will the prevalence of child labour. Increased parental mortality due to COVID-19 will force children into child labour, including the worst forms such as work that harms the health and safety of children. Temporary school closures may have permanent implications for the poorest and most vulnerable. Limited budgets and reductions in services for families and children will compound the effects of the health, economic, and social crisis.

We expect millions of children to become child labourers due to a rise in global poverty alone.

Even in the highly improbable scenario of a short-lived economic crisis, the consequences of this increase in child labour can last generations.

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CLC Statement on “Malala Day,” July 12, 2013

WASHINGTON—The 30 members of the Child Labor Coalition (CLC) applaud the courage and commitment of education activist Malala Yousafzai who spoke to hundreds of young people gathered from over 80 nations for a Youth Session at the United Nations today. Malala, who just turned 16, was tragically shot in the head by the Taliban in Pakistan last fall because she dared to attend school and argued for the right of other Pakistani girls to do the same.

“We are all inspired by Malala’s amazing courage,” said Sally Greenberg, the co-chair of the CLC and the executive director of the National Consumers League. “Our coalition knows all too well that when children are not allowed to attend school, they often end up in work that is dangerous or damaging to their future development. Around the world, an estimated 61 million children are denied access to an education. At considerable risk, Malala is speaking out on behalf of those children.”

“Malala is a powerful reminder that education is not only the right of every child, but the greatest hope we have for a more just, prosperous, and peaceful world,” said Dr. Lorretta Johnson, Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and a co-chair of the CLC. “We join her in calling for increasing educational opportunities for all children and encourage everyone to join the 4 million people who have signed a worldwide petition in support of universal access to education.”

Despite the catastrophic injuries suffered when she was attacked, Malala’s voice rang loud and clear at the UN and her message was firm: all children deserve an education.… Read the rest