BY DENIS EDEMA
Authorities in Jinja City have blamed parents and guardians for the rising number of children selling different items on the streets.
Children between seven and 15 years can been seen on the streets of the city selling tomatoes, boiled eggs, onions and sweet bananas, among other consumables.
Mr Allan Ndhala, the Jinja City probation officer, acknowledged that child labour is on the rise in the area, noting that it is due to some parents losing their jobs to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The office has notified the concerned authorities of the rampant increase of child labour and there are plans to sensitise the public through radio talk shows that would be followed by arresting a child selling on streets who will lead police to their parent or guardian,” Mr Ndhala warned last Wednesday.
It has emerged that most of the children come from the areas of Masese-Walukuba in Jinja South East, Bugembe and Mafubira in Jinja North and as far as Bugerere in Kayunga District, among other destinations.
A 10-year-old Primary Five pupil last Wednesday told Daily Monitor that his father, who was working in one of the steel factories in Jinja, and his mother, who was working in a hotel, lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“My mother buys bananas, which she gives me and my sister to sell on the streets,” the boy said, adding that when they return home without any sales, they are punished.
The children also said gangs of street children take the money away from them, eliciting fear to return home.
Mr Hassan Ssebandeke, a teacher in Wandago, Mayuge District, said the prevailing poverty has contributed to the rampant child labour of various forms in the communities.
“There are some demands for the girl child such as sanitary pads; when the child doesn’t have them, she becomes vulnerable,” Mr Ssebandeke noted. Mr Alfred Ochaya, the executive director of Support and Love via Education International, a non-governmental organisation , said Covid-19 made many people lose jobs and the effect is now trickling to the children. “I recently came across a boy in the city at night who was afraid to return home because the four trays of eggs he was given to sell were stolen by unknown people,” Mr Ochaya said.
He added that the most affected are children whose parents have not been staying with them at home.
Mr Paul Kagolokakyomya, the director of Ghetto Native Initiative in Masese, Jinja South-East, said the home learning project has not benefited most school-going children.
Ms Juliet Faith Namanse, the executive director of Busoga Governance and Social Accountability Network, said child labour is very high in the area as parents send their children to work in sugarcane plantations.
The public relations officer in the Ministry of Labour, Gender and Social Development, Mr Frank Mugabi, said there are about two million children between five and 17 years engaged in child labour across the country.
“With the current situation (of Covid-19), the number could be higher since children are not in school. However, the ministry will enforce the National Child Labour Policy of 2006 and the National Action Plan on Elimination of Child Labour of 2017-2022 to stop the vice,” Mr Mugabi said in an interview.
He added that employers are not supposed to hire children below age of 16 and at district level, labour officers are required to conduct regular inspection as per government regulations to eliminate child labour.