Members of the House of Representatives in Zanzibar have spoken bitterly about the irrational and even illegal habit displayed by unwitting parents who send out their children to pedal minor goods in the streets instead of allowing them to go to school.
The representatives were resentful that while the government is keen on ensuring that all children are educated fully, some parents force theirs to send cattle to grazing grounds or to pedal roasted groundnuts or other goods in the streets all day long.
Kiwengwa Constituency Representative Asha Abdalla Juma was so bitter on this matter recently that she asked the state to fight absenteeism in schools by punishing parents if they are the source of the felony.
This diabolical habit is most prevalent on the Mainland. Indeed, the number of children who struggle to make a living in the streets in this country is shocking. Statistics are hard to come by but head count can easily run into hundreds of thousands.
You would think they don't have parents or guardians at all. Some find the going impossible and try homelessness. It is not uncommon to see children of school-going age slogging it out for a living as hawkers in the mean streets.
Some parents and guardians often defend this saddening situation saying: "The children are acquainting themselves with the rudiments of earning a living."
This is gross child abuse. There are many under-age quarry stone crackers, shoe-shine boys, fitters, cart pushers, cattle minders, miners, prostitutes, domestic hands and farm helps. Underage workers also feature in factories and some go out on fishing expeditions in the ocean, lakes and rivers.
The list is virtually impossible to close. This is outrageous, to say the very least. Exploitation of child labour has become so commonplace in Tanzania that the average person no longer sees it as a serious offence. Not many people know that enlisting child labour is a crime.
Most child labourers are made to toil for hours on end in the hot sun -- many of them on empty stomachs. The meagre earnings most of these children make always go to their masters, parents or guardians.
The children often have to make do with the crumbs that remain on their masters' tables. It is cruelty ruthlessly meted out on hapless children. Why should this absolutely free nation have a modicum of justice for its kids?
This is disgusting. In some places, some destitute children are offered a pittance for walking blind adults -- some of whom wasted their lives lazing about and ended up in grinding poverty.
The children cover incredible distances walking from bar to bar; restaurant to restaurant and person to person begging in earnest for alms. These children, most of whom are boys -- never go to school.
This is not acceptable. It is high time the rot was stemmed.