Zanzibar — CHILD labour is preventable and multiple measures have been implemented to stop it, but it is still going on in many parts of Zanzibar particularly in Pemba, in areas such as Micheweni, Mwambe, Wambaa, where children are working in stone quarries: breaking stones into pebbles, and blocks fabrication.
Children on Unguja Islands in areas like Charawe, Kijini- Matemwe, are also engaged in child labour, employed in fishing, looking for firewood, and livestock keeping. It is estimated that thousands on children are employed in informal sector.
Global number of children in child labour, according to International Labour Organization (ILO), has declined by one third since 2000, from 246 million to 168 million children last year due to the ongoing campaign against abuse on children.
Child labour is defined by ILO as ‘work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development’.
It refers to work that: is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and interferes with their schooling by: depriving them of the opportunity to attend school; obliging them to leave school prematurely; or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.
‘Stop child labour’ is a campaign being implemented by five local NGOs: TAMWA, COWPZ, PIRO, and KAKHAWA in Unguja and Pemba Islands, trying to save at least five thousands children working and get them to school.
The local NGOs are happy of the achievement so far in the campaign to save the children from child labour, but need more help from parents, members of the society, and development partners to end child labour.
Many children between the age of four and 15 are employed in ‘Hazardous work’, but the NGOs have managed to save more than one-thousand five hundred children who are now back in school after persuading them and their parents to accept to resume school.
The project coordinator, Ms Shekha Dau, said the children were given school uniforms to return to class, “but sustaining the project is the challenge.” She said that the project to stop child labour in Zanzibar is being supervised by ‘Save-the-Children International’ and funding from European Union (EU).
Commissioner for labour- Zanzibar Mr Kubingwa Mashaka Simba admits: “Child labour is embedded in informal sector, but the current laws only apply in formal sector. It is true child labour is still a problem; some children are working in hazardous work. Plans are underway to improve the laws to be applied in informal sector.”
Simba says that the campaign to stop child labour is being hampered by parents sending their children to work. “We need concerted efforts to educate members of the society including parents using poverty as a pretext to promote child labour.”
Parents like Mr Rashid Mohammed, 61, a father of seven children in Wambaa- Pemba, say he cannot give his children complete freedom to go to school without doing work. “My children have to look for work to earn money. My three children break stones into pebbles for sale.”
His wife, Khadija also argues: “Poverty is to blame for child labour. Let the government give us means to get food and cloths so that our children can remain in school. Education is very important, but the problem is poverty.”
A prompt survey by a group of journalists in various areas of Zanzibar to find out the scale of child labour confirmed that efforts to save children from child labour and send them back to school has been proving successful but complicated.
Children engaged in breaking stones have absconded school while others work, or their attendance in school is very poor, as they work many hours in scotching sun to earn small money by selling a plastic bucket full of pebbles at only 150/-, and normally sale between five and ten buckets.
“It is unacceptable that children are not attending school, we must save the children and get them back to school,” said Ms Mgeni Hamad Othman, chairperson, Kupunguza Umasikini na Kuboresha Hali za Wananchi (KUKHAWA).
“We are asking parents, and the government to join the campaign to child labour,” she said. KUKHAWA has been doing a recommendable job of identifying and persuading children to return to school, and for those at risk of abandoning school to remain in class, to complete the compulsory education.
KUKHAWA (an NGO in Pemba determined to end child labour in the society) and Ms Mgeni, chairperson said that in the past one-year they managed to save 106 children from child labour and sent them back to school, after providing them with school uniforms.
“We also managed to identify 130 families as poor families which qualify to be supported to establish an income generating activity for livelihood. The aim is to support families so that the parents can be able to care for their children,” said Mgeni.
Ms Saada Hamad Mbarouk from ‘Pemba Island Relief Organization (PIRO)’ says her office has been working to save children at risk of abandoning school due to difficult living environment, and that about 1,250 children including some who were out of school “were given uniforms, but lack school materials like exercise books,” she said adding that the budget for each child is 15,000/-, just a enough to buy one pair of school uniform.
A recent visit by reporters in Wambaa village, South Pemba, revealed that the ongoing work of saving children seem to be complex as parents, blaming poverty, are reluctant to allow their children to have full time schooling. The reporters witnessed a considerable number of young girls breaking stones using a hammer, in Wambaa village.
The girls said they have to work to help their parents and buy their own essential needs alike cloths. Officers from TAMWA, COWPZ, PIRO, and KAKHAWA link high level of literacy, and poverty to being major cause for child labour in Zanzibar.
Both parents and their children such Fatma Omar, 13, interviewed said: “It is difficult to remain in school when we need to support our parents.” The Project is being implemented by the local NGOs. It aims at saving at least five thousand children from child labour by 2015.