Afghan Children Direct Traffic on Mountain Pass for $4 a Day

On a mountain pass outside Afghanistan's capital, trucks barreling down the highway slow down when 11-year-old Sedaqat waves his homemade sign to warn of a hairpin turn.

He spends the entire day out in the bitter cold, working as a volunteer traffic warden on a treacherous bend in the road and accepting tips from grateful drivers. On a good day he'll make the equivalent of $4, which he'll use to support his family.

Sedaqat, who like many Afghans has only one name, is one of several children who make money as volunteer traffic wardens on the Maipur Pass, along the main highway from the capital, Kabul, to Pakistan.

The highway cutting through the jagged peaks is clogged with overloaded trucks, busses and cars, in a country where reckless driving and poor road maintenance contribute to an untold number of deadly accidents.

Sedaqat says his main worry is the exhaust fumes, which make his eyes hurt at night. He would prefer to go to school, but as the eldest son, it fell to him to support the family when his father, a brickmaker, developed chronic stomach pains.

"I warn my son every day about the cars coming from the Kabul side. The drivers are completely careless and I fear for my son's life," said his father, Nader Khan. "It pains me to see him work, and I'd rather see him go to school. But what he earns now is the only income we have in the family."

Afghanistan bans children under 14 from working and has ratified international conventions against child labor. But rights groups say laws against child labor are poorly enforced. Human Rights Watch has estimated that a quarter of all Afghan children under 14 work for a living, many in dangerous industries like brick-making and mining.

On a recent winter morning, as other children headed off to school, Sedaqat set up black, red and blue oil cans at his favorite bend at the highway and took up his red wooden traffic sign.

"When I see other kids going school, I feel sad because I also want to go to school," Sedaqat said. "But I know that I'm the only breadwinner in my family. I have to work to help myself and my family survive."

He said he would like to become a real traffic policeman, a job that pays around $180 a month. But that would require some schooling.

"I have to do this now to support my family," he said. "Maybe one day I'll become a real traffic policeman and help my nation."



Add Comment

all comments

  Other news

more
Mark Zuckerberg tells Harvard grads: we need a new social contract

Mark Zuckerberg tells Harvard grads: we need a new social contract..

25-May, 20:01

Facebook CEO and one of Harvard's most famous dropouts Mark Zuckerberg,...

Lauren Goodger flaunts slim figure in bikini video to deny that she has gained weight and insists that 'unflattering' paparazzi shots of her body are edited to make her look 'four times the size'

Lauren Goodger flaunts slim figure in bikini video to deny that she has gained weight and..

25-May, 15:09

Posing by a pool in a bright blue bikini with pink strings, Lauren...

Channel 4's new series Ackley Bridge cuts 'fake bomb hoax' scene in last-minute edit in light of Ariana Grande Manchester terror attack

Channel 4's new series Ackley Bridge cuts 'fake bomb hoax' scene in last-minute edit in light..

25-May, 08:32

On Monday night 22 people were killed and more than 59 people were...

The Queen meets with young victims at Royal Manchester Children's Hospital after terror attack at Ariana Grande concert

The Queen meets with young victims at Royal Manchester Children's Hospital after terror attack..

25-May, 08:32

Her Majesty The Queen has visited the victims of the Manchester Arena...

Lebanon appoints a new army chief, ending 2-year impasse

Lebanon appoints a new army chief, ending 2-year impasse..

08-Mar, 08:56

Lebanon's Cabinet has named a new army commander, ending a two-year...

Hundreds missing in Boko Haram's biggest abduction of kids

Hundreds missing in Boko Haram's biggest abduction of kids..

30-Mar, 11:53

Human Rights Watch says hundreds of children remain missing while...

Ericsson Falls to $180 Million Q4 Loss in Weak Market

Ericsson Falls to $180 Million Q4 Loss in Weak Market..

26-Jan, 08:26

Swedish mobile networks company Ericsson has reported a fourth-quarter...

Democrats' new chair on electoral mistakes: 'We ignored rural swaths of America'

Democrats' new chair on electoral mistakes: 'We ignored rural swaths of America'..

26-Feb, 13:50

The new chair of the Democratic National Committee acknowledged the party...