Tuesday, March 21, 2006

ZIMBABWE: Child labour on farms must be stopped, say unions

Via: IRIN
HARARE, 10 Mar 2006 (IRIN) - "As standards of living in Zimbabwe continue to deteriorate the use of child labour on farms has risen sharply, with over 10,000 children estimated to be working in the agricultural sector. Gertrude Hambira, secretary-general of the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ), told IRIN that her association would seek the assistance of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) to end child labour on farms. She said children aged 16 years and under working on farms were regarded as child labourers."

"We are finalising our reports, which we want to bring to the attention of UNICEF, so that they can intervene and protect the rights of children. Children should be in schools and not working on farms," said Hambira.IRIN recently reported that new commercial farmers, the beneficiaries of the government's controversial land redistribution programme, were struggling to pay labourers."

"According to statistics, an average family needs Zim $28 million [US $282] a month to meet its basic requirements. However, our members are being paid Zim $600,000 [$6] a month, which is only enough to buy a bar of soap and cooking oil. This has exposed children to abuse by commercial farmers, who are making them work on their farms in exchange for a free education on farm schools," Hambira alleged."

"New farmers using child labourers in exchange for an education have dubbed the system 'Learn as you earn'.Hambira added that because the wages of farm workers could not sustain their families, children were also being employed to supplement family incomes. "In some instances we have cases of parents and their young children all working on the farm so that they can pool their earnings to buy food and other basic necessities," she commented."

"Hambira said some of the children working on farms had been displaced by the government's Operation Murambatsvina last year - an urban cleanup campaign. "In addition, children are now dropping out of school because school fees are beyond their reach, as some government schools are charging fees of Zim $400,000 [$4] a term," she added."

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