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During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic many children were involved in child labour in the mining town. Image by CAWI
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many children were forced to abandon school to do menial jobs to earn a living. Local companies and individuals took advantage of the situation, hiring children as employees against the country’s statutes.
HWANGE (The Citizen Bulletin) — Busani Moyo (17) (not real name) is trying to balance education and income generation activities. But, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was involved in money seeking schemes, rubble-loading being one of the dozen part time jobs he did.
Busani says he struggled to balance school livelihoods.
“When schools closed in 2020, I started going to the truck stop to load and do other piece jobs there. It was little money but seems to sustain my needs. My father was retrenched during the same period and my mother is a vendor. I tried to help.”
Busani Moyo, during an interview after sitting for his Mathematics paper 2
Busani goes to the truck stop or nearby mining companies for loading and piece jobs every weekend. He is not alone. Many children in the mining town were involved in child labour at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite calls from residents on the use of under age children as employees, especially by Chinese companies, authorities have turned a blind eye.
COVID-19 and climate change induced poverty among families have been pointed as push factors for child labour. The scourge is affecting both sex.
“Boys are usually involved in manual and labour intensive jobs while the majority of girls are hired as house maids or child minders. A child involved in this set up of employment hardly concentrates on educational studies. Hardly performs well,” says Amanda Mwanza, a resident.
Onita Sibanda, a child rights activist says, almost all the young boys she had met have a similar story and painful experiences.
“At the truck stop, these children are initiated into drugs like marijuana and alcohol. I have met many of them and they are losing hope. It is a call for parents and relevant stakeholders to help them,” Sibanda says.
Children who are involved in child labour are having a hard time trying to balance between education and income generating activities. Image by Unsplash
Children rights defenders believe COVID-19 created a huge gap in social safety nets. Without cushioning allowances to parents and educational support to children, Sibanda says child labour was inevitable.
“That was a recipe for the destruction of our children’s future. We needed a support system which our government did not have. Children ended up looking for piece jobs. It started like boys had gone playing and met luck. But, it blossomed into corruptible behaviour,” says Sibanda.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines child labour as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.
A recent report by the United States Department of Labour says in 2021, Zimbabwe made minimal advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The National Assembly began consideration of amendments to the Labor Act, which would increase penalties for child labor violations.
The government, with the United Nations, also launched an updated Sustainable Development Cooperation Assistance Framework, prioritizing increased educational access and social protections for girls and other groups vulnerable to child labor.
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