Kids from earthquake-hit areas eke out existence at brick kilns

- Pratichya Dulal, Kathmandu

Feb 4, 2016-

Prakash Bhujel wakes up at 2am in the morning and starts shaping bricks until one in the afternoon. A short tea break and it is always after mid-day that he gets to eat a proper meal. 

The 12-year-old boy from Ramechhap, started working in a brick kiln this season in a bid to earn enough money to rebuild his house ravaged by the earthquake last April. 

“I used to go to school but left mid-season this year to help contribute to build the house. I don’t like the work and am counting the days until three more months are over to join my school and family,” said Bhujel, a five grader at Matangrey School, who earns a rupee for each brick he makes. 

Bhujel and six of his cousins—all under 16 years—are sweating it out at the kiln where they slog long hours in squalid living conditions to earn as much as they can in a day.  Stakeholders claim displacement of children is on the rise due to internal conflict and natural disaster. Children are attracted to brick kilns as they do not require any specific skills so long as they can work from dawn to dusk.

A recent survey by the Child Development Society (CDS) found that 506 children are working at 15 brick kilns in Bhaktapur. Out of them, 216 children were aged between 6-14 years. 

Similarly, a study by two researchers Keshab Prasad Adhikari and Min Raj Adhikari to find the impact of earthquake on family migration in search of livelihoods along with children in Bhaktapur, Ramechhap and Kavre—three of the 14 quake-affected districts—suggests a huge number of families have migrated in search of work, with many children taking up menial work to supplement family income after breakdown of their regular means of survival.

Stakeholders fear this will likely see the children from these families abandon school and get into employment generating activates. 

“Families from the quake-affected areas have migrated in large numbers. We are worried that most of the children will leave school in the middle of the academic session to help their parents at places like brick kiln,” said Milan Dharel. 

At Krishna Brick Kiln, Laxmi Bhujel, 15-year-old girl from Ramechhap, is busy making bricks. She aims to make at least 150,000 bricks this season to help her family rebuild their home and keep her younger sister (sixth grader) in school for one more session. “My sister is bright and I want her to complete her education and I don’t want her to follow my footsteps,” said Laxmi. 

Published: 04-02-2016 08:40

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