Poor quality public education and high-priced private lessons are the main reasons for the increasing child labor phenomenon in Egypt, said the weekly Middle East Times.
According to experts attending a Cairo conference on child labor, millions of Egyptian children face physical danger when carrying out their tasks, as well as physical and sexual abuse by their employers, said the report.
The researchers and child rights activists at the conference urged the government to put a stop to what they called a "catastrophic phenomenon."
"If we do not act now, this phenomenon will be incurable and its consequences will be far reaching on both our children and our economy," said Azza Korayam of the state-run Social Research Center.
There are no government statistics on the problem, but Korayam said the number of working children under the age of 15 could exceed four million.
According to those at the conference, most of the children are employed in mechanical workshops, but there are also numerous children working on farms as well as in the chemical, steel and construction industries.
Korayam said that girls were mainly employed as housemaids and were, in many cases, subjected to sexual abuse.
According to the weekly, child labor is the result of deep-rooted economic and social problems.
Children who work from a young age in most cases miss out on formal education. But the educational system in Egypt is so poor that many families believe their youngsters would be better off learning a trade.
Public education in Egypt is supposedly compulsory and free. But large classes, poorly paid and trained teachers as well as the inability of education to secure employment make the prospect of sure employment more attractive than a diploma to many parents, said the weekly.
What's more, the rising costs of supplemental classes make education for their children unaffordable to the 30 million Egyptians who earn less than $1 a day.
The state-run Supreme Council for Childhood and Motherhood has launched a program aimed at reducing child labor by providing low-income families with loans and grants to set up their own businesses.
The program also provides education and health services for working children, the weekly added – Albawaba.com
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