September 7, 2006

Child labour increasing

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), child labour means all forms of work by children under the age laid down in ILO standards (normally 15 years or the age of completion of compulsory schooling subject to some exceptions). In Tanzania, some 4.600 children are estimated to be subject to this type of labour. The small-scale mining industry has always been pointed to be the main culprit. Going by a myriad of names for their ’professions’, these children are sprawled all over the country from Tarime in Mara, Talawaka in Biharamulo, Mererani in Arusha to Mtwara region where the mining of an array of gemstone has been in full swing particularly for about 20 years since the advent of liberalisation in the country. These children, as young as eight years old, dig 30 metres underground in mines for eight hours a day, without proper lighting and ventilation – constantly under danger of injury or death from cave-ins.
For neighbouring Kenya, according to the available statistics, its government recently reported that 1.9 million children, between the ages of 15-17, are working children. Only 3.2 per cent of these children have attained a secondary school education and 12.7 per cent have no formal schooling at all. According to the same statistics from ILO, during the peak coffee picking in Kenya, it has been estimated that up to 30 per cent of the pickers are younger than 15 years. In Zambia, for example, its government points out that there are 595.000 child workers in the country, of this number, 58 per cent are 14 years old or younger, and, thus, ineligible for any form of employment under the Employment of Young Persons Act. It is the same case in Rwanda where there are an estimated 400.000 child workers. Of these, 120.000 are thought to be involved in the worst forms of child labour and 60.000 are child domestic workers.
Of the worlds 246 million children aged between five and seven years, those who are engaged in child labour, 48 million are found in sub-Saharan Africa making this continent to have the greatest incidence of economically active children with 41 percent of them on the continent at work. On average, more than 30 per cent of African children from the arid and acrid terrains of Dodoma and Shinyanga in Tanzania, to the swampy forests of the Congo Valley are agricultural workers. According to a recent survey by the Ministry of Public Service and Labour in Rwanda of children involved in prostitution in several large Rwandan cities found that 40 per cent of child prostitutes had lost both of their parents, 94% lived in extreme poverty and 41 per cent had never been to school. (The Guardian, Tanzania)

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