Since the introduction of free Universal Primary Education (UPE) in 1997, the number of children enrolled in primary schools has shot up from 2.5m to 6.7m. But it is not yet time to celebrate.
Many children are still not enrolled in school, or go to school once in a while, due to child labour.
According to a recent study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International programme on Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), many children are being exploited in commercial agriculture.
Their work includes weeding and harvesting coffee, tobacco, tea and rice. â€œStudy findings indicated that children start to get involved in farm activities as early as four years of age, with average age of child workers being 15 years in tea plantation, 11 in coffee plantations and rice fields, and nine years in tobacco plantations,â€ says the Baseline Survey on Child Labour in Commercial agriculture in Uganda.
The report, released in October 2002, follows research conducted by ILO and IPEC in 11 districts where these crops are grown on a large scale.
Out of the children interviewed, 81% of them were working in tea estates. Most were migrant labourers from south-western Uganda.
Although most of them are enrolled in school, they often miss classes because of work.
â€œOn average, a child misses five days of school, arrives late and on six occasions fails to complete homework five days in a month,â€ says the report.
In the tea sector, 7% of the children were heads of households. The rest were living with either parents or siblings.
The report says additional information from group discussions indicates that children who get into employment to raise school fees or buy scholastic materials end up losing interest in schooling and get swallowed up into the labour market.
The report urges the Government to speed up the formulation of policies and the implementation of international instruments against child labour.
It also urges the Government to address the factors that draw children into the labour force, so that children do not return to it. Some employersâ€™ and workersâ€™ organisations are also dealing with the prevention and rehabilitation of child labourers. Ends
Woes Of Child Labour