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Child Labor in Afghanistan Remains a Problem

FILE - Children work at a brick-making factory in Jalalabad, Dec. 17, 2013.

FILE - Children work at a brick-making factory in Jalalabad, Dec. 17, 2013.

With war still raging in Afghanistan, the country also faces the problem of child labor as families put their school-age children to work to help make ends meet.

VOA encountered two families whose children toiled away at a brick-making factory. One family had been working to pay off a loan of some $1,500 it borrowed from the brick-factory owner 10 years ago — so far without success.

Both families' children spent their days making bricks from mud clay.

"By God, I am frustrated with my life,” said Razi Khan, whose children were laborers. “I cannot get loans [for food or other basics] from shopkeepers, nor can I get money from the owner of the factory."

The children had no choice but to accept their fate.

"My father works here by himself as we don't have any brothers,” said Sabila, who makes bricks. “If we had brothers, we would have gone to school to study."

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Factory officials seemed unconcerned, though indentured servitude is officially illegal.

"It is not that they are confined here,” said Samiullah, a secretary at factory, “… but they have to pay back the money they owe."

The governor of Nangarhar province, Salim Khan Kunduzi, apparently was unaware of the situation.

"I will get more [and] accurate information,” he said. “My job is to listen to people's problems and then find solutions to them."

But after the story aired on VOA's TV Asha and appeared on its social media platforms, people worldwide donated thousands of dollars to help. Reporter Zabihullah Ghazi, along with other journalists and activists, returned to the factory to deliver the money to the two working families.

The heads of the families promised to that their children would now attend school.

"I was trying to pay back the loan but now, as I will not owe any money, the older children will work with me and the younger ones will go to school," said Burhanuddin, the head of the second family.

And little Marwa could not control her tears of joy.

"I am very happy. I will go to school," she said.