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Children in Pakistan camp forced by poverty into work

Reporter: Danial Khan 丨 CCTV.com

05-25-2016 10:42 BJT

The United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, says some 75 million school-aged children around the globe are in desperate need of educational support.

One in every four children between the ages of three and 18 live in countries affected by humanitarian crises. So the organization has launched a new campaign to reach these children - and is looking to governments to help reach its funding target of 3.85 billion US dollars.

Pakistan would be one country qualifying for aid. CCTV correspondent travelled to the southwestern province of Balochistan and visited an Afghan refugee camp, for an up-close look at the state of education in the camp.

Located about 40 kilometers outside Balochistan's provincial capital of Quetta, this is Saranan camp, the largest out of 12 Afghan refugee camps in the province.

Hosting more than 30,000 residents, the population of Saranan has steadily increased since 1986, when it was established.

There are nearly eight thousand children under the age of 5, living in unforgiving conditions. 

Scarcity of resources and ever-growing poverty often leaves small children exposed to extreme circumstances. 

"All the children at the camp cannot go to school because there are a lot of problems at the camp. When 40 students get admitted in grade 1, only 10 to 15 students reach the 12th grade. Because of the financial problems, thousands of students have to let go of their studies and they start working from a young age," said Zahir Pashtun, school principal.

This is a high school at the Saranan Afghan refugee camp and it has a capacity of about 1,100 students, but authorities fear that the number of enrollment of students is falling significantly every year because most of the students work alongside their parents to make their ends meet.

The children are forced to work after school. Each child gets a mere 30 cents for a day's work at the brick kiln, working under the scorching sun, lifting heavy bricks for hours on end.

"I'm 11 years old. My father has passed away, I am compelled to work, that is why I study and work at the brick kiln. There is no money in my house," said the local child.

"We go to the brick kiln to work and earn 30 rupees every day. There is no one to earn in the house except me. I'm the only one who works and I try to make ends meet," said the local child.

Another child said, "I have a family of 12 people. We are extremely poor, I study in the morning and work in the evening. My father is alive but he is too old to work."

Inside the Saranan camp, six schools have been established. But almost all seem deserted, and the ones that are operational, have meager resources.

What does stands out is an ostentatious display by the United Nations, as one enters the school.

"At this time we are facing a lot of problems in education, we don't have stationery and books for grades 9, 10, 11 and 12 and this was the responsibility of the UNHCR. Through the media, the UN is showing the world that they are helping us, this is all wrong, we are barely provided with any help," said Zahir Pashtun.

A UN education campaign launched in the year 2000 aimed to provide "Education for All" by the year 2015 - with pledges from 164 countries.

With that goal unmet - UNICEF's new "Education Cannot Wait" campaign is hoping to raise nearly four billion dollars to reach children living in crisis situations over the next five years.

For now, the thousands of children living in Afghan refugee camps, continue to wait.

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