Throughout the world, 250 million children are working to
earn money for their families, 125 million work full time.
The conditions under which they labor are often brutal and
often the result of economic conditions that their parents
get into--debt. In order to satisfy their creditors,
parents place their child up as collateral, a form of debt
slavery. The conditions under which these children
work are brutal and they have no way out, unless they risk
death. It was the death of one such child, bound to slavery,
that prompted a Canadian teenager to form Save the Children.
This is a case study, provided by Human Rights Watch.
CORE QUESTION: What economic conditions forced parents into
debt? Why do they put their children up for collateral
and not themselves? To the "loan sharks",
why are children attractive collateral? Are there
ways out of it? Are there ways to stop it?
TIME REQUIRED: One 40-minute period-- with homework that
could extend the discussion into part of day 2.
SUGGESTED GRADE LEVELS: This lesson is useful for high school
students in a World History or Global Issues classroom setting
but can be used in lower grades if the teacher and the curriculum
would allow for discussion of a sensitive and disturbing
INTERDISCIPLINARY CONNECTIONS: Visual arts
– when used in conjunction with either or both of the photo
essay lessons on this site.
JERSEY CORE CONTENT STANDARDS: 6.1: 10-13; 6.2:
9-11; 6.3: 9,12,14; 6.4: 9-13; 6.5 13-5; 6.6 13-15; 6.7:
11-12; 6.8: 12-17.
Students will be able to describe the extent of the problem
as the international community sees it; evaluate the analysis
of HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH; determine whether national
sovereignty ("it's my country--you stay out of our
affairs") is a valid answer to not allowing international
agencies to monitor or remedy the problems. Students
will be able to synthesize responses to the critical needs
of developing countries that are troubled by child labor
The entire India Bonded Child labor Report is available
at the following web site or by clicking the link: http://www.hrw.org/reports/1996/India3.htm.
With the kind permission of HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, this long
document has been excerpted to two different Microsoft Word
documents, if you click the link, it will activate MICROSOFT
WORD and come up.
India's Child Labor Laws (1933, 1976 and 1986) (8 pages)
The Indian Bonded Labor Industry (8 pages)
can print 4 two-sided pages for each of the above documents,
take to your photocopy room and have a class set made, and
distribute to the class. Read the primary and secondary
source silently or aloud discuss, beginning with the problem
report and then on to India's laws. Discuss
the cases mentioned in the production of beedi cigarettes.
Any common circumstances? Ask the students for recommendations
that they would make, being an outside international agency.
Who would they get cooperation from? What was be the
Indian government's response to such shocking stories?
Have the students make specific recommendations as to how
India's law enforcement could be made stronger. You
can view the whole document and make notes about the recommendations
that Human Rights Watch made (it is in the early part of
the whole report). An extension activity could be
added if another case of child labor violations (kids sewing
soccer balls was a recent example) comes to light in the
As a preliminary exercise (if you have a computer lab at your
disposal or a computer with a projector that can show the
computer screen on a movie screen) visit the International
Labour Organization's IPEC
site (International Programme on the Elimination of
Child Labor). On the right side you will see a link to a
slide show program that is broken down into several areas
that make a good introduction. This slide show is a Macromedia
Flash presentation. There have been problems reported
by those who tried accessing it with Netscape 6 browser,
but older Netscape versions and Internet Explorer browsers
have the correct plug-in and it does work. Please
try it out prior to displaying it.
Next, use a map to show where India is. Describe the basics economic
problems of this country (per capita income, poverty).
Watch--whose kind permission to excerpt their reports
for classroom educational use is gratefully acknowledged.
Click on the links to the reports. See our RESOURCES
page for additional web sites for more international agencies
that are children's rights advocates.
A homework assignment based on the suggested questions above
or additional questions that you add--can be in the form
of an interpretive essay or a DBQ (Document-Based Question
format for those familiar with the AP Exams). Since
students are being asked to interpret, allow them the flexibility
of coming up with ingenious solutions to the enforcement
A quiz on the whole issue of children's rights (if you have
used more than just this lesson) could be constructed.
A further enrichment exercise could be constructed to allow
students to research other
labor-related abuses in different countries around the world
through a coordinated effort to use the resources of Human
Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Save the Children and
other organizations. Classroom presentations could follow.