Child labour deeply entrenched in Kenya

By Michael Oriedo

Child labour in Kenya has been a major problem with many children said to be working in the tourism, agricultural, manufacturing and domestic services sectors.

Most of these children work under harmful conditions that are detrimental to their moral, physical and psychological growth.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) estimate that over a million children between ages six and 14 work as child labourers in the country.

Few years ago, the US Department of Labour put Kenya on the spot when it released a report accusing multinational companies in the agricultural sector for using children to produce commodities meant for export market.

The department then threatened Kenya with a boycott of its products since the practice violates international conventions against child labour.

With the implementation of the Free Primary Education in 2003, the Government seemed to have dealt the vice a blow.

Poor pay

However, many children have since quit school and returned to work where their employers pay them poorly or sometimes do not pay them at all.

The children’s withdrawal from school poses a challenge to the country’s aspirations of achieving education for all.

Studies by labour organisations indicate that among the main causes of child labour in Kenya include an increase in poverty, rural-to-urban migration, HIV and AIDS pandemic and domestic violence. Others are crimes like cattle rusting, banditry and intra-ethnic violence, which leads to displacement of families.

Escalation of the menace has, however, been blamed on the reluctance of the Government to strictly enforce policies and statutes that protect children.

Corruption is also cited as another reason that ignites the vice. A number of people we spoke to at Kaimaiko slums said police round up the children but release them after receiving bribes.

"Those children make a lot of money and the police know. They will arrest them, take them to the police station and release them after a few hours," said a source.