Africa has the highest incidence of child labour in the world: one of every four African children under the age of 14 is working… and that number has been increasing at an alarming rate.
But beyond the despair, there is also progress. Some Sub-Saharan African countries have been world leaders in getting children out of child labour, and into primary school.
Since Uganda’s government introduced Universal Primary Education in 1997, school enrolment has more than doubled.
But the situation is complicated by HIV. In Uganda more than a million children have lost one or both parents to HIV-AIDS. With their family life destroyed, instead of going to school, many of Uganda’s children are forced out into the streets to work.
Uganda’s National Child Labour Policy now specifically addresses HIV issues, and relies on the active involvement of the community. Monitoring groups supported by the government and the ILO ensure children are off the streets, and staying in school.
Sam Mungasa, Mbale Child Labour Committee:
“We visit the children at school to check their academic performance of the children. We talk with them. We share with them. We make them busy in the school, so they do not to go back into child labour.”
Uganda’s employers are also committed. Many who once thought paying a child to work helped a family come out of ILO workshops with changed attitudes:
Kato Hussein Galiwango, Federation of Uganda Employers:
“I believe there is a lot that employers can do to mitigate the negative consequences of child labour. First and foremost, I would advise them to seek more information about the legislation. Then after they have realized that it is a problem there is need for collective effort.”
In Uganda, there is a clear pattern. When government, employers, trade unions and civil society networks come together to promote the right policies, it can make real change happen, and move toward eliminating child labour.