Drive to end child labour

There will be no child labour when laws that govern access to basic education are strengthened. This is the view of the Department of Basic Education as South Africa joins the world in commemorating World Day Against Child Labour today.

Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said a strong message is being sent to parents or guardians who deny children the right to basic education.

Mhlanga was referring to the Basic Education Laws Amendment (Bela) Bill, which introduces tougher sentences to the School Act of up to 12 months’ imprisonment and/or a fine for parents or guardians who prevent their children from attending school.

“In Mpumalanga, the department of education has been building mega-boarding schools for farm learners from grades R to 12 … Children must be in school,” he said.

The day is held under theme “universal social protection to end child labour”, with calls for increased investment in social systems to protect children from child labour. International Labour Organisation data shows that the number of children involved in child labour increased by 8.4 million to 160 million last year, with Africa accounting for the largest number of child labour cases.

Deputy director-genera in the Department of Employment and Labour Thembinkosi Mkalipi said there are cases where children are forced to work on farms or in the informal sector but child trafficking is also a serious problem in South Africa. The latest report of the Survey of Activities of Young People shows that the number of children who were involved in child labour declined from 779 000 in 2010 to 571 000 in 2019.

South Africa hosted the fifth Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour in Durban last month.

Mkalipi, who was interviewed during the conference, also stressed the importance of education in ensuring that children do not fall victim to child labour.

“Children who are not at school are likely to be involved in one of the forms of child labour, either child labour, child trafficking or being forced into child sex by criminals,” he said.

“The vulnerability of parents is also an issue … Are they having decent employment and earning a decent income?”

North West University’s Dr Anja Visser, who published the study “Child labour is a matter of national concern: What is the curriculum doing about it?” argues that the Curriculum Policy Statement should provide in-depth knowledge on the meaning and forms of child labour.

“You cannot expect all problems of the country to be solved by the curriculum … Our response is to ensure that all children are in school to protect them against child labour,” he said.

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