Children working is a common sight on the streets of Lusaka. In the above photo children are hammering large rocks into small stones that can then be used to make bricks to build houses. Children are also seen carrying water and selling vegetables. In rural areas, many children are employed in agriculture.
Despite the range of legislative protections for children, the number and conditions under which children work remains an issue of concern. It is estimated that one in three children aged 7-14 are engaged in employment. Another study estimates 1.3 million or 41% of children aged 5 to 14 work.
Most working children attend school, although work commitment have a direct impact on their school grades, completion and attendance.
Of those children involved in the worst forms of child labour, it is estimated that 7000 children are explosed to chemicals, 1600+ work at dangerous heights with no safety equipment and 800+ children work underground.
All shocking statistics. Yet these are people’s lives.
Edah is a child working in agriculture. She spends 31 hours per week working before household chores or school activities. She attends school intermittently and therefore her grade progression has been affected. It is likely she will stop school aged around 12 as she takes up extra duties.
Many families who send their children to work feel that removing children from the labour market would make household businesses inoperable. Children are vital income earners for families. Yet consequences of child labour are many. Poor school attendance increases a child’s vulnerability to exploitation and abuse. It also affects their cognitive, physical and emotional development.
I cannot imagine having to make a decision to send Isla and Amba to work in order to survive. It is so removed from my thinking. Yet to thousands, this is a daily reality.
Another stark reminder of injustice in the world in which we live.