…UN says “children shouldn’t work in fields but on dreams”.
By Lahja Nashuuta
The United Nations has urged Namibia and other developing states to intensify its efforts against child labour in order to eliminate all its forms by 2025 as per United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 8, target 8.7 and other targets set through national and international law and put restrictions on the use of child labour.
The World Day Against Child Labour is annually celebrated on June 12th and focusses attention on the global extent of child labour and the action and efforts needed to eliminate it. This year the day was held under the theme “children shouldn’t work in fields but on dreams”.
Namibia, despite having a relatively small population of just over two million people, is grappling with a child labour problem, with hundreds selling stuff in the streets of the capital.
With poor families struggling to make ends meet coupled with familial breakdowns and neglect, many children are forced into hazardous work instead of attending schools.
Children as young as eight are spotted in major towns such as Windhoek, at parking areas, minding cars or criss-crossing the city centre selling articles, mostly clothes hangers, that have been discarded by retailers.
Some other forms of child labour can be seen in areas such as Katutura at the Monte Cristo road, where commuters get busses to others part of the country.
In those areas, children under the age of 16 dressed in rags, weary faces with red eyes, unkempt hair and grubby feet and always famished are spotted carrying boxes of sweets, boiled eggs or biscuits for as cheaper as N$3.
While in other parts of the country where there are government agricultural gardens such as Ruacana constituency in Omusati region and Kavango regions, children are seen along the road selling boiled maize cobs.
A study done by the ILO International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) in 2010 and 2012 confirmed that although Namibia has adopted legislation such as Labour Act, 2007 (Act 11 of 2007) to prohibit or place severe restrictions on the employment and work of children, child labour continues to exist on a massive scale. The report attributes the high prevalence of child labour to the persistence of poverty, inequality and other developmental challenges faced by the country and the region at large.
According to the statement issued by Southern African Development Community (SADC) Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax indicates that high decent work deficits in the region, characterised by high informal employment and a large proportion of the working poor of around 50 per cent, means that many children are susceptible to child labour as a way of supplementing household incomes.
Dr Tax said the greater progress in the fight against child labour can only be realised in combination with inclusive economic growth, in a context where labour markets can provide sufficient jobs and income security for those of working age.
She therefore urged countries to double their efforts to ensure that quality education and skills development become the means by which children realise their dreams and entitlements for a better and productive adulthood.
“Given the rapid pace of socio-economic transformations affecting the world today, it is imperative that the SADC Member states invest in high-quality education so that children can acquire the critical skills that are appropriate and relevant for adaptation in the ever-evolving economic systems and labour market conditions,” Dr Tax said.
She further calls for sustained partnerships involving among others, governments, employers’ and workers’ organisations, in order to accelerate action to end child labour, if the 2025 eradication target is to be attained.