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Children turn to hard labour amidst Covid-19 lockdown

A child crushes a stone at a quarry

A child crushes a stone at a quarry

More children have resorted to getting work due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, a new report reveals.

The report titled I Must Work To Eat notes that “the Covid-19 pandemic has increased pressure on children to enter the workforce, due to the economic crisis and escalating poverty it has caused, alongside massive school closures, the loss of caregivers due to death and illness, and limited enforcement of child labor standards.”

Human Rights Watch, Friends of the Nation, and Initiative For Social and Economic Rights, wrote the report which was conducted in Uganda, Ghana and Nepal.

The report was launched recently, a couple of days before Uganda has instituted new lockdown measures amidst a second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic. All schools and higher institutions of education have been closed for a further 42 days from June 7.

Many learners in the lower classes of primary have been at home since March 2020 when the first lockdown was declared. The report also noted that many parents have decided to work remotely from home, with children asked to undertake more house chores.

The World Bank estimates that the number of people in extreme poverty (those living on less than $1.90 per day) grew by 88 to 93 million in 2020, and projects further increases during 2021, according to the report. Matters are made worse that the children earn little money to make basic ends meet.

“In Uganda, most of the children were paid less than Shs 7,000 per day ($2) even though nearly half worked at least 10 hours a day,” the report noted.

The report quoted 13-year-old Saphina who spent nine hours a day crushing stones at a stone quarry but was paid only Shs 4,000 ($1.11) per week. She said: “The money that I earn is too little compared to the work that I do.”

Those who received such money, it later turned out, were the lucky ones. Many others were ripped off, and went home with nothing, the report found out.

“More than a quarter of the 81 children interviewed said that their employer sometimes refused to pay them or cheated them of their wages. Some said their employers arbitrarily made deductions from their salaries if they were not satisfied with the child’s work,” the report noted.

The report has recommended a number of measures to ensure that the children are safe from the harsh realities of the lockdown. The authors of the report have asked government to ensure that children enjoy adequate standards of living by, among other things, providing allowances to targeted families.

They have also recommended to government to ensure adequate social protection budgets to provide a minimum social protection package for households with children.

They also want government to “ensure that social protection programs are financed via progressive revenue generation. In the wake of Covid-19, avoid austerity measures and budget cuts to essential public services like education and social protection.”

Uganda provides free primary and secondary education, but the continued closure of schools means that many children will not return as they are absorbed into the labour market.


+1 #1 kabayekka 2021-06-13 02:15
It certainly seems that providing free primary and secondary education in Uganda was only a political gimmick for the politicians to keep their bread and butter.

The majority of these African children have not benefitted from it at all. Now that COVID19 has struck this country, it is the most vulnerable that must suffer the consequence of it all.
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