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Remembering Ali Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Peter Saval Mutung'u M, Kenya Jul 20, 2007
Human Rights   Opinions


Ali arose to the searing pain in his back & in that moment he feels sad that his wish to die in his sleep was not granted. He quickly puts on his tattered shirt & shorts, it’s another day, he recalls that his stepfather said he wouldn’t get breakfast, he walks out to another day. As he leaves, he meets his friends,” Come & enjoy the weekend with us, school was tiring”I tell him. He makes a promise to come later though he knows it’s impossible & recalls when he could play..

Ali is the only son in a family of two children,his father passed away when he was a mere 10 yrs,his mother was inherited & in came his step father as per the local customs,archaic in modern time.
Yonas,his stepfather,his father’s younger brother,already with his own family soon took it upon himself to use the vast fortune he inherited to his own family,taking his children to private university,his inherited family,was to do something else.
He decided that Ali should no longer attend school though he’s the best in his class & his 9 year old sister,Layla was to become a housemaid despite her asthma,Ali’s mother was beaten into a coma when she protested & is now bedridden.Layla passed away after 1 yr,her previous employee left free upon paying gratuity to Yonas for whipping the girl to death for complaining…

12 old Ali is now at work,a construction site,he begins as always by carrying heavy bags of cement on his back to the floors under construction,his back aches as always & his red eyes strain to see as his skinny legs now bow legged go back & forth,his tears at this time covered by the sweat,”what did I do to deserve this?”
At the end of the day,his employer pays him less than the rest of the workers,a meager eighth of what the rest receive because he is a child,though he did the same work but he knows better than complain,that would result in a thrashing from his boss & loss of his job which would yield a certain death at home then who would look after his mother,he struggles home,exhausted,hungry…he’s not had anything the whole day.He gets home,gives Yonas the wage,Yonas complains at the amount & slaps the boy then gives him a plate to share with his mother.
The food is a reflection of his wage,he then feeds his mother,lying that he’s already eaten,the tears in her eyes show that she knows his lie.He kisses his mother’s forehead then lays on his mat & with his eyes searing,his back aching,he falls into a troubled sleep,wishing to die in his dreams knowing this is unlikely & tomorrow will be as today

Exactly,one week later,Ali died.He was my friend,I saw him on his death bed,before he died,he asked me”Why did my life have to be like this?”I could only cry a reply & before I could answer,his eyes turned glassy.
I count my blessing being that this isn’t my life but what if it was, I’m torn by the idea that somewhere out there, many Alis awaken every day to this

Ali died not because he was old or sad, but because of the fumes he inhaled at the site. This is a sad fact, the older you are, the stronger your body is in immunity,Ali was not even allowed to build that immunity,chemicals that due to conditioning would have a lesser effect than a child.Further,an ill adult would be more likely to be cared for than a child as they are viewed as somewhat inferior.

Sadly, child labour still continues in many countries,attributed to the poverty levels in those countries.There lies a likely problem..it’s impossible to not have some child labour.In such cases,I believe that the child should be paid as an adult for they are in effect expected to work as adults,it’s only logical.Sadly,this,as Ali illustrates is unlikely.

A child is less likely to work in an office & this would mean that they would get jobs working in for example,fields gathering the produce mainly due to the wages & the laxity of regulations in regards to this kind of temporary labour.I get a sickening feeling at the thought of a child labouring in a field & their work ending up in a meal on a plate.The obvious solution would be to boycott produce from such countries.Unfortunately,this would not help the child & it’s unlikely that this would curb this exploitation.

My solution for this would ideally be that there should be child labour laws that are adhered to by governments & any likely breaches carry heavy penalties.The government should further look into ways of enforcing this,by making education free,this would enable needy children to gain a vital tool…KNOWLEDGE.The rest relies on us,Collectively we share the responsibility.

I do what needs to be done to STOP child labour because of the Alis out there,I will strive to make my friend’s as well as many others lives not to have been in vain,Will you join me or do you wait because you are lucky,don’t you think it’s time you made your luck count for those that lack it.



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Peter Saval Mutung'u M

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