Usher Wilson Owere, the Chairman General, National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU), says the decision of parents to occupy their children is a good approach for their safety and has nothing to do with child labour.
Eleven-year-old Jerom Bwanika is a primary six pupil at Lohana primary school in
Kampala. During normal weekdays, Bwanika would spend his days at school
studying with his peers.
However, due to the
COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the government to close schools as part of the
containment measures, Bwanika spends his day supporting his mother at the
family shop. Bwanika explains that he revises his books in the morning and
helps his mother later to make and sell ice cream.
He told URN that with
the experience he has gained, he could easily get employment in a medium-sized ice cream parlour. 16-year-old Dorothy Kiconco a senior three student of Kitante hill
secondary also helps her mother in Boost Arcade in Kampala city.
explains that, unlike her colleagues who are at home spending time on
television, she has been able to get some knowledge on managing customers in
the business world.
Kiconco’s mother in women's clothes. She helps the customers to check
clothes that fit them and shows them different designs. Kiconco has also learnt
the skills of bargaining with the customers.
Yusuf Mutabazi, a senior two student from Luzira secondary school aged 14,
explains that currently, he is helping his sister in her wholesale, which sells
threads. Mutabazi says that his role at the shop has helped him to gain
experience in the business language.
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Under the Employment Act, a child under the age of 14 years may is ineligible for
employment except for light work under the supervision of an adult. The work should not be
affecting the child’s education. The Act defines light work as the one, which
does not harm the health and development of the minor and does not exceed 14
hours per week.
Some of the parents, who took the decision to work with their
children, say it was inevitable. Bwanika’s mother, Rita
Nalubowa a shop attendant in Makindye, says that working with her son was a
decision she took after realizing that schools would take longer to open.
‘’The moment the
government said that the learners will be resuming school after vaccination; I
knew this was going to take them a long time. Then I decided to bring him
with me to the shop so that he can get some useful experience in the business
besides reading his books,” ’Nalubowa said.
Wasswa Kirumira, another parent dealing in women's clothes in Kampala, says it
is not good to leave the students at home especially in today’s environment. Kirumira
says that apart from being able to monitor his son while working with him, he
can also save some money he would be paying to an outside employee.
He explains that the prolonged closure of schools has made him realize that his
son can get some skills through supporting the family business.
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The children (Amendment) Act 2016 also prohibits the exploitation of children
whereby people derive a benefit like finances. Usher Wilson Owere, the Chairman
General, National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU), says the decision of
parents to occupy their children is a good approach for their safety and has
nothing to do with child labour.
According to Owere, parents and children can generate family income in their
family business as they wait for the schools to resume.
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Owere says that at the beginning of the first lockdown many reports pointed to
the negative effects of the lockdown on schoolchildren including teenage
pregnancies and child labour among others. He says that if parents have realized
that engaging their children by working with them is the best option to keep
them safe and at the same time learn some business basics, it should be