Tough Future!

Tough Life! by Rudy A. Girón

One week after I started AntiguaDailyPhoto on May 1, 2006 I pointed out how kids should be in school instead of working on the streets. The entry was entitled Tourists and shoe-shining boy.

Only two weeks later I presented you a little boy no more than 5 years old with a shoe shining box in his right hand walking the wet streets of the rainy season in Antigua Guatemala. This is what I wrote then in Antigua’s child labor:

The future of a society is with the children and their education and preparation. What kind of future awaits for Guatemala when its children are on the streets working to survive today. What kind of education and preparation will its labor force have in ten or twenty years? I posted another photo of a child at work on May 7th.

It is very disturbing to me to see children working to survive today instead of being in school and have the minimum provided to them. By the way, child labor is illegal in Guatemala and school is mandatory for children under 16. As you can see, neither is enforced by the government.

Almost a year later, on May 29, 2007 I touched the issue again with All Work And No Play Makes For A Very Dull Day:

What I learned from these kids is that rock climbing is possible in La Antigua Guatemala; child labor still present in Antigua and I don’t know if ever it will be eradicated; regardless of the labor conditions, kids will find a way to play. Good for them!

How can we expect a better future as a country if our future is on the streets working instead of in school preparing to make a better nation?

© 2011 – 2016, Rudy Girón. All rights reserved.

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  • …. as a visitor, I’m always torn when children try to sell me things on the street. I know that by buying something from them, I indirectly support child labor, but when I don’t buy anything from them, I feel almost guilty because I know they need the money, often times for something as basic as food for the family. So what should we do ?  Knowing that the family often depends on this income from tourists, you can at least help them a little I think.  It’s very difficult to decide what to do.  Then again I often give money to children when I would like to take a photo or just simply because they ask for it and afterwards, they buy themselves ice cream or candy with that money and that I think is a good idea, cause I can see that they use the money for themselves and that I can make them a little happy for that moment with just a little thing.

  • Brian

    Jeanne, I had the same reaction and was planning to post an almost identical response, but you beat me to it.  What is the right thing to do i this case?  My assumption (maybe incorrect) is that the children are doing it because the family needs the money to survive, and if that’s the case, it feels like the kind thing to do is to pay for a shoe shine (I tip extra well). At the same time, it would be much better to give them access to the things they really need to improve their quality of life with schooling.  I’m not sure what the tight thing to do is in this case.

  • Gordon

    You cannot micromanage cultures completely different than your own nor should you. There is nothing wrong with learning and practicing a trade at any age. We were brought up to believe schooling is the answer, but that only amounts to a white collar job if any are available. If everyone had white collar jobs then who would do all the physical labor? Who would shine shoes if everyone went to school instead? Who would wait tables? Who would sweep the streets? A productive trade needs to be cherished and applauded and not pitied no matter what the pay scale is.

  • José Lino Maltez

    Gobiernos van y vienen y el problema de estos niños en Guatemala no lo solucionan. Porque nuestros políticos no tienen ética ni moral y por lo tanto solo les interesa su bien personal. Además muchos de estos niños son explotados por sus mismos padres y familiares quienes utilizan el dinero recolectado por los niños para mantener sus vicios. Alguien hizo un comentario que quién haría el trabajo de estos niños limpliabotas u otro tipo de trabajo que hacen las personas que no tienen ninguna profesión u oficio. pues siempre existirán las necesidades y lo que tenemos que hacer es ayudarlos.

  • David

    Formal education is important, but the school of life beats it everyday, knowing with God that you can always achieve in some manner.   In the Philippines they get educated and still have to go overseas for work since unemployment is so high and salaries low.
    Try to give the people on the street a little more for their goods. A lady there makes a nice beaded bracelet and gets only a dollar and they sell here for $15

  • Norm Kwallek

    My policy is to not give the school age vendors my trade during school hours, any other time, I’m a softie.