The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) defines a child as a human being below the age of 18 years. In Kenya, when a person attains 18, her or she is considered to be an adult who can make own decisions within the confines of the law.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), child labour refers to work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to their physical and/or mental development.
It refers to work that is mentally, or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and/or interferes with their schooling by: depriving them of the opportunity to attend school, obliging them to leave school prematurely and/or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.
In Kenya, many children are subjected to child labour due to their poor financial backgrounds. They are forced to go out of their way to fend for themselves and at times for their families.
Some of the industries that are dominated by child labourers include the agricultural sector, where children are forced to go into farms and plant or harvest crops like tea, coffee and khat so that they can be paid meagre amounts that can be able to slightly support them to see the next day.
Some children are also forced into being domestic workers where they are taken in to do house work or even tend to their employers’ children. They are to wake up in the wee hours of the morning, prepare bathing water and breakfast for their bosses, ensure their clothes are well pressed and their shoes are shiny before they leave for their jobs. If they underperform, they mostly get punished verbally and at times physically.
Most of our streets are dominated by child beggars who are a common nuisance. They will hook themselves to you until they part with something small from your pockets, be it money or even food. They are also at times intoxicating themselves with inhaling glue that keeps them “high”.
Other children scavenge at dumpsites for scrap materials and food remains.
These scraps are later taken to be weighed in and they are paid per kilogramme of what they were capable of getting.
Despite government interventions like ensuring the 100 percent transition from primary to secondary, a lot needs to be done in terms of ensuring that these young children are not subjected to torturous jobs in search of food or money to pay school fees.
It is the duty of the relevant ministry and other stakeholders to ensure that the cases of child labour are reducing if not ending. They should be able to do inspections at the county levels to ensure that employers are not taking advantage of cheap labour by employing children.
It is also our duty as loyal and honest citizens of this country to ensure that we do not engage in practices that harm or endanger our children since they are the pillar of this nation.
Teresa Moraa via e-mail