• Labour Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui says relocating children from rural to urban areas to work as househelps is akin to internal human trafficking.
• Schools were closed in March after the first Covid-19 positive case was recorded in the country. Until the reopening in January next year, children remain vulnerable to domestic labour.
Child labour is rampant in Kenya, especially now schools are shut due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Labour Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui says relocating children from rural to urban areas to work as househelps is akin to internal human trafficking.
Child Protection Information Management System (CPIMS) says 612 cases of child labour have been reported since July last year.
Covid-19 has exacerbated the already bad situation, according to Chelugui.
“The identification of victims, which is difficult under normal circumstances, has become even harder in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Four in any 10 children in age group 5-14 in Kenya are engaged in child labour. This translates into about 3,736,000 children.
Most of these children, according to 2019 data of UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation's Institute of Statistics, work in the agriculture sector - tea, coffee and miraa.
Others work in the service industry as domestic workers and scrap material scavengers.
The United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) in June projected increased child labour during the coronavirus pandemic as schools remain shut.
In its Covid-19 and Child Labour report, the UN agency said that households are looking for new ways to allocate children’s time as they await school reopening, putting the youngsters at risk.
“Schools provide critical social protection resources for children and their families. Closure thus raises many concerns around vulnerability,” the Unicef report says.
Schools were closed in March after the first Covid-19 positive case was recorded in the country. The reopening date is scheduled for January next year. This means that children will remain vulnerable to child labour for the next five months.
Child labour is most prevalent in the informal sector where they are exploited as unskilled workers.
“Many children are at risk of being pushed into child labour as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. That would mean a rise in child labour for the first time since 2000,” the UN agency says.
Apart from child labour, some youngsters are sexually exploited for commercial gains.
“The worst forms of child labour in Kenya are commercial sexual exploitation (sometimes as a result of human trafficking), begging and street vending,” the International Labour Organisations says.
The UN agencies say the protection of children from hazardous and exploitative labour should not be compromised by the coronavirus pandemic and economic lockdowns.
“Where children are exploited, upholding the rule of law is essential in guaranteeing their right to justice,” the Unicef report says.
Unesco now wants funds to be provided for social service workers who engage children to prevent them from being engaged in child labour. Such workers should also be treated as providers of essential service.
“Both short-term mobility restrictions and the diversion of human and financial resources to other urgent needs have constrained the vital work of social workers,” Unesco notes.
- mwaniki fm