Increasingly, it has become commonplace to find children as young as five years hawking food, sweets or household items along major roads, in estates and within urban centres. In Nairobi particularly, babies who can hardly speak, approach passers-by with begging bowls in hand. It is a sad situation.
Looked at objectively, this is child labour, which our Constitution outlaws. Once schools close, these children are denied the chance to be kids, they lack the opportunity to study to be able to compete with their compatriots on equal footing because their parents require them to lend a hand in looking for money to sustain them.
The necessity of life has forced these children to engage in those activities, primarily to make ends meets, but it is morally wrong. Besides bringing up children with a poor view of life, it exposes some of them to danger.
Admittedly, these are hard economic times in which poor families find it hard to make ends meet. Poverty levels are on an upward trend in most parts of the country forcing families to employ whatever means at their disposal to survive, but children must be protected.
The scourge of Aids that has left many orphans behind, broken marriages and a tear in the social fabric have their place in forcing little children into doing adult work for survival.
A study commissioned by the European Union shows that 1.9 million children in Kenya are engaged in child labour, a situation that calls for urgent government attention.