Children’s rights activists have called for more action on issues regarding child labour, saying inadequate attention given to the issue has allowed the crime increase especially in rural areas where capacity to enforce minimum age requirements for schooling and work is lacking.
Humana People to People Botswana (HPP) Child Aid Resource Mobilization Officer, Lily Ponatshego said she has seen first hand that child labour is more prevalent in Botswana than people are aware of. She said more should be done to discourage it especially in rural areas where many appear not to be aware of its consequences on children. She said children who are forced to work have become objects of extreme exploitation as they are being made to work for long hours and given minimal pay. She said the conditions of their work are particularly terrible, often not providing the stimulation for proper physical and mental development.
“Child labour continues to be a great concern in many parts of the world and Botswana is no exception. We have in the past managed to rescue over a thousand children from child labour in areas such as Gantsi, Selibe Phikwe and Charles Hill, where the trait is most prevalent. There is desperate need for education on this issue in those areas because we have realized that while others were taking advantage of vulnerable children, others just did it blindly, not knowing what it does to a child to work especially in harsh conditions. Children work for a variety of reasons, the most common being poverty and the induced pressure upon them to escape from this plight.”
She said some children are drawn to child labour because of economic deprivation and lack of schooling. School is one of the most essential platforms for early intervention against child labour as it restricts their participation in menial jobs. She said child labour can be controlled by economic development, increasing awareness and enforcement of anti child labour laws. She further stated that they have recently signed a memorandum of agreement with Botho College to help with research on the issue so that they will be in a better position to address them.
Childline Botswana Coordinator, Onkemetse Montsheki said child labour is one of the most under reported forms of child abuse in Botswana as more is happening out there that it is revealed. “ We did some research in 2012 and we found out that it was shamelessly underreported. I suspect this is because of lack of understanding of the difference between what is excepted as child chores and child labour in some cases,” she said, adding that efforts should be made to educate people especially in rural areas on such issues.
According to International Labour Organization, global estimates on child labour progress towards the elimination of child labour in Sub-Saharan Africa is lagging behind other regions of the world. Sub-Saharan Africa has the greatest incidence of children in economic activity with 28.4 per cent of all 5 to14 year-olds, compared to 14.8 per cent for Asia and the Pacific and 9 per cent for Latin America. It ranks second behind Asia in absolute terms, with 58.2 million children working in the same age group. The persistent challenges of widespread and extreme poverty, high population growth, the AIDS pandemic, recurrent food crises, and conflict exacerbate the problem. In the region, 38.7 million children aged 5 to 17 are in worst forms of child labour (hazardous work).