Child Labor is Wrong- We need Clear Laws

Child Labor is not a new phenomenon for most African parents.

Owing to the tough experiences of people living in Africa, some parents have no choice but to spend some of their time walking over 10 kilometres daily to collect firewood, fetch water and looking for other basic needs for their families. Sadly, children have to toughen up and help with these daily chores.

A visit to the famous Gioto Dumpsite in Nakuru tells of the same predicament that children born from struggling families have to deal with for their survival.

Walking along the Nakuru-Nairobi highway, you will find small children trying to sell njugu karanga and sweets. I found time to engage one who told me;

“Sina Kwa kukaa wala chakula. Hizi streets ndizo home kwangu na mabesty wangu wawili Mwas na Johnie. Kama saa hii niko hizi sides Johnie wako maroundie kusaka scrap then majioni tunakutanaga tuna buy food na ile doh tumemake ile inabaki tunaweka place in case tukuwe na kaemergency.”

Am surprised that the small 12-14 year old by estimate already knows he needs to save for a rainy day.

A look at the flower and coffee farms reveals a vast number of children working in these places. These are children who per the constitution are supposed to be in classes studying and playing like other children. However, for their parents, these kids are a source of extra income, and therefore they have to accompany them every day as they go to these fields.

A more crazy experience is the one you find a beggar on the streets with a small baby strapped by their backs every day for over five years, and you wonder if these children never grow up. Well, the secret is these beggars hire these children from neighbours and friends and at the end of the day they pay the parents some commission.

Efforts towards preventing the economic exploitation of children have not achieved much. In other instances, children have even been exposed and forced to join the armed conflict, by being given ammunition and being instructed to fight in the name of protecting the community and livestock.

Sadly, someone has failed these children. The children protection services, the Police and Administration Unit of this country because they watch as the children are economically abused.

The Children’s Act, Section 10, provides that every child shall be protected from economic exploitation. Children should also be protected from any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development. The act defines child labour as any situation where a child provides employment in exchange for payment and includes:

• Any case where a child includes work as an assistant to another person and his labour is deemed to be the labour of that other person for payment;
• Any situation where a child’s job is used for gain by any individual or institution whether or not the child benefits directly or indirectly; and
• Any case where is in existence a contract for services where the party providing the services is a child whether the person using the services does so directly or by an agent.

Additionally, the legislature of this nation also needs to look into the provisions of the constitution on this matter because the law is very vague and does not provide for any punishments for such offences. The only requirement is that against the employment of children in the “very harsh” conditions. The lawmakers need to define this “very harsh” because harshness is relative. This fact makes the fight against child labour and abuse counteractive and unimplementable.

Nkatha Mugao
Author: Nkatha Mugao

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