At a time when the government is keen to ensure that every child gets an education, the prevalent child labour scourge is worrisome. It is quite rampant in the agricultural sector, where many children toil while their peers go to school. They are driven by the poverty ravaging families as their parents also break their backs to put food on the table.
However, when the young ones miss school, the consequence is that the families remain trapped in cyclical abject poverty.
The government has committed itself to ensuring that all eligible children go to school by waiving tuition. However, there are many other charges, levies and requirements such as uniforms and books that the absolutely poor parents cannot afford.
Some children are thus unable to take advantage of free tuition because of these reasons.
Among the culprits in the exploitation of children are tea farms in the Rift Valley, where minors are engaged in slave-like labour for meagre wages.
However, there are also many other places where children are put to work and paid a pittance. The fishing industry around Lake Victoria and at the Coast are also notorious for recruiting minors. The trouble with child labour is that employers take advantage of their helplessness and ignorance to exploit them, while endangering their lives. The children are most likely to be found slogging away without protective gear and, because they do not belong to trade unions, they have nobody to fight for their rights.
Labour officers and inspectors across the country are doing a commendable job, but they are clearly overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem. There is, of course, still more work to be done to ensure that all children who are supposed to be in school do not fall in the hands of firms and organisations out to profit from cheap labour. As economic difficulties mount, the problem of child labour is bound to get worse. It is a menace that requires concerted efforts to tackle.