Police in Arua has launched an operation to arrest and prosecute parents who subject their children to child labour. The operation follows a visible rise in children involved in selling edibles within the city centre.
Ugandan law prohibits the employment of children aged under 12 and stipulates that the involvement of children in any employment should be limited to light work carried out under the supervision of an adult aged above 18. But children as young as five years have been seen wandering across the streets of Arua with baskets containing foodstuffs, eggs, vegetables and fruits, polythene bags, and face masks.
Jimmy Anguyo, the Child and Family Protection Unit head at Arua Central Police Station (CPS) notes that the practice is a violation of the fundamental rights of children. According to Anguyo, they will not hesitate to arrest any parents who subject children to any kind of work which is above their capacities.
Child rights activists say that child labour denies the youngsters fundamental human rights such as the right to education, the right to rest and leisure and freedom from the country’s unfair working conditions.
Arua Resident City Commissioner Alice Akello notes that children, especially girls who are engaged in hawking, have ended up being abused on the streets by other people, adding that they are going to hunt for the parents of the children and take them to courts of law.
Emily Drijaru, the Executive Director of Integrated Child Services Consults, a non-governmental organization in Arua city, says the situation of child labour was worsened by the closure of schools during the recent COVID-19 pandemic. She however observes a need for an urgent intervention to stop the practice to save many children from dropping out of school.
According to a report released in June 2020 by the Community Empowerment For Rural Development (CEFORD), a non-governmental organization operating in West Nile, child labour is a major challenge especially in the districts of Nebbi, Zombo and Arua.
The report further indicates that many children in the affected areas are heavily engaged in farming activities like coffee and tea planting, weeding and harvesting, while many others are engaged in alcohol brewing, especially the girl child.
In Uganda, 28 percent of children are engaged in some form of child labour, according to the Uganda National Household Survey 2019/2020.