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How Coronavirus Could Wipe Out Two Decades of Progress in the War Against Child Labor



Photo of a boy in Pakistan
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PESHAWAR, Pakistan — The boys struck out from their village in Pakistan’s rugged tribal belt and came to this frontier city to work at Maula Khan’s drink stand, a wooden cart shaded by an umbrella on a road bustling with migrants, war refugees and swerving rickshaws.
Umar Gul and Muhammad Siraj stood in the 108-degree heat, pouring freshly squeezed lemons mixed with jaggery into steel cups for 12 cents a serving. They were far from home, but when the coronavirus pandemic closed their elementary school in March, their families needed them to work.
“I decided to support my parents,” said Umar, a 14-year-old who was in the fourth grade. His 13-year-old cousin Muhammad, whose father owns the lemonade cart and demanded the boys join him, was in the grade below. Neither is counting on returning to school when classes resume.
“I’m not sure,” Umar said, shrugging, his shoulders slumped under a loose-fitting shalwar kameez. “My father doesn’t have enough money for my education.”
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