Testimonies of pupils dropping out of school in Kayunga District to do odd jobs in sugar plantations and sand extraction in riverbeds and river banks are quite painful. In Ntenjeru County alone, about 70 pupils reportedly drop out of school every term and the trend is prevalent in the entire district.
According to the inspector of schools for Ntenjeru County, out of 77,000 pupils who sat Primary Leaving Examinations in the district last year, only 281 passed in Division One while 1,677 failed and more than 600 registered, but dropped out before exams. This also shows the direct correlation between high dropout rates and academic performance in final exams, for those who stay in school. Absenteeism too is high. Some pupils appear at school only twice a month while others take months to come back.
They are abandoning school to engage in sand extraction, sugarcane plantations, fishing, and other sorts of casual jobs with knowledge and consent or at the behest of parents. This is child labour. The children are exploited as they are given paltry pay for their hard labour and for such peanuts, their future is totally shuttered.
This vice is not just in Kayunga District alone, but also prevalent across the country. The relevant authorities must act fast to address this evil that is ruining the future of the country’s children. One way of doing this is for local leaders to sensitise the parents to enable them realise the importance of educating their children. The district and local council authorities must play their role to ensure initiatives that bring about development in their respective areas. Such development cannot happen with an illiterate community.
However, sensitisation alone will not be sufficient to ensure children go to school or those who do, stay there. Many parents will ignore or scorn the message. Ugandan and international laws prohibit child labour.
Therefore, sensitisation must be backed up by enforcement of the law to punish the culpable parents and employers of child labour so as to deter others from the vice. It is absurd that despite the government’s free primary and secondary school education programme, there are still thousands of children in the country, who are not in school, with some dropping out to engage in child labour to fend for their families or themselves.
Let there be ordinances by either the districts and or Local Councils to apprehend parents who don’t send their children to school or employers, who employ children of school-going age. In Kayunga, the district council passed an ordinance in 2014 to arrest parents who don’t send their children to school, but to date, the Ministry of Justice has never approved it. Government should expedite the enactment of the by-law to end school dropout and child labour problem.