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Monday, 3 April, 2000, 18:31 GMT 19:31 UK
Children march to go to school

Child labourers took to Delhi streets
Hundreds of children have marched in the Indian capital, Delhi, to demand their right to free education instead of forced labour.

Politicians and activists joined nearly 1,000 children as part of a campaign to push for children to be put in school, instead of working in sweatshops or as domestic help.

It is criminal and shameful that in the 21st century children are not being given ... their right to go to school

Sheena Hanley, Education International
The protest coincided with a week-long global campaign for primary education, which is also taking place in Washington, Brussels, Durban and Sao Paulo.

A report released in India revealed that nearly 32 million children were denied a school education.

Child workers

The children protesting included many who do not go to school, some who had been released from bonded labour and others who worked as rag pickers or in railway and bus stations.

Carrying placards they chanted: "We want education, stop child labour."

Thirty-two million Indian children are denied schooling
Sheena Hanley, of Education International, urged governments to enforce education and impose laws which stopped the violation of children's rights.

"It is criminal and shameful that in the 21st century children are not being given the human right that is their right to go to school," she said.

"We cannot allow it to continue," she added.

India's poor record

The chairperson of Global March against Child Labour, Kailash Satyarthi, told the BBC that there was a vicious circle between poverty, adult unemployment, illiteracy and child labour.

Mr Satyarthi said that education was the key to break the circle and the government needed to increase spending on primary education.

He pointed out that India spends only 1% of the country's GDP on basic education, three-quarters of which went towards educating the children of the wealthy.

Meanwhile, a report presented by the Centre of Concern for Child Labour said that most of the 32 million children who have never been to a school came from the states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

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14 Jan 99 | South Asia
UN to tackle child labour in India
13 Dec 99 | Europe
Child poverty worsens - Unicef
10 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Youth parliament targets child labour
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