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CHILD LABOUR IS HARMFUL TO THE PHYSICAL, MORAL AND MENTAL DEVELOPMENT OF CHILDREN—THE WORLD MUST FIGHT IT

By Mabel D. Awuku & Ampomah Patience

 

 

I lived 5 years of my life working tirelessly for one very wealthy man who could have treated me better than he did or, perhaps, ensure that I was educated also. I was denied formal education. I had no time to enjoy life as any normal child. At age 8, I was solely responsible for the upkeep of the house of this man.

 

 

I swept, washed and, worst of all, forced to keep him company anytime his wife was away. He sent money occasionally to my poor parents in the village under the pretence that I was schooling and being treated fairly. Contrary to that, I was being molested by him and his wife brutalized me physically by continuously hitting my head with objects, slapping me or beating the life out of me at the least provocation. I lived my life then in agony; yet I could not cry out for help until I attained 15 years.

 

 

A lady lawyer who I regard as my saviour once visited and I gathered courage to meet her under cover. I narrated to her my plight and ordeal, and that was how I was rescued from child labour.

 


Child labour has, over the years, been an issue of national and international concern which has brought together leaders of various nations for the purpose of finding solutions to it.

 


International and national organizations, civil society organizations, local communities and other relevant development partners have not been left out in the discourse of finding ways and means of bringing child labour to an end.


What is child labour?


The United Nations (UN) defines child labour as any work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and which is harmful to their physical, moral and mental development.

 


Globally, about 168 million children are engaged in economic activities and also working full time, with agriculture alone deploying 70% of the world’s child labour whereas the remaining 30% is recorded in the mining sector.

 


By the nature of their work, these children are denied formal education, have no or little time to play and do not receive proper nutrition or care. They are also exposed to toxic substances and all forms physical, psychological and emotional abuse.

 


In all African settings, cultural values allow for allocation of chores for children as matter of moulding and making them responsible adults.
Chores contribute to a child’s maturity; they prepare children to serve others and also promotes family unity, thereby making children feel they are a valued part of the family, unlike leaving them on their own with computers and game materials where they are left out to play harmful and as well useful games and watch all kinds of things on the internet which shape their minds for better or for worse.

 


The Ghanaian cultural setting allows children to accompany or help parents who engage in daily work activities like farming, fishing and hunting, among others, mostly after school or during weekends. Parents who own shops also recruit their children into their businesses with the aim of training and passing-off or transferring knowledge and skills to them. This helps the children to be better prepared as heirs of the various work activities. These activities are not seen in the Ghanaian society as having any relation to child labour.

 


Child labour in Ghana

 


Activities such as helping around with the house chores, assisting in a family business or earning pocket money during holidays are not regarded as child labour.

 


In other words, not every work children engage in can be referred to as child labour though most working children are labourers.

 


However, instances where children are camped in homes where they are physically and sexually abused, left without education and proper nutritional care are situations of child labour.

 

It is, therefore, common to find children in the streets begging for food, selling wares or engaging in a local business either in the transportation of heavy loads, popularly known as kaya.

 


In Ghana, the 2014 Ghana Labour Standards Survey (GLS6) showed 1,982,553 children aged between 5-17 years out of over 8 million, representing 21.8 per cent are engaged in child labour.

 


Some causes of child labour

 


Child labour has been in existence even before the 16th century. Over population, poverty, parental illiteracy, lack of proper education, urbanization and availability of cheap child labour are some common causes of wide-spread child labour.

 


Most illiterate parents do not understand the need for the wholesome physical, cognitive, and emotional development of their children. Being uneducated and unexposed themselves, they do not understand the need for educating their children.

 


Other factors responsible for the perpetuation of child labour include irresponsible parenting, children born out of wedlock and children with no parents and relatives who become street children and engage in any work to survive.

 


Lack of meaningful alternatives such as affordable schools and quality education according to the ILO is another major factor driving children to harmful labour.

 


Measures to be taken

 

Elimination of poverty, free and compulsory quality education as well as proper and strict implementation of labour laws can help in the eradication of child labour.

 


The detrimental effects of child labour cannot be prevented by keeping children in school without fully withdrawing them from inappropriate work schedules or workloads. Keeping children in schools for quality education is one of the effective antidotes for child labour.

 


The future of our children starts from now. Let us all come together to ensure children are disengaged from activities that are detrimental to their health and developmental growth. Together, we can.

 


The writer is an officer of the Information Services Department.

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