School is the Best Place for Children to Work

October 30, 2013

The Coalition Against Child Labour in Zimbabwe (CACLAZ), a Hivos partner since 2009, has just passed the milestone of sending back to class over 550 children who had dropped out of school.

These are children, based in the country’s Lowveld region, who were spending their days working at home, in the fields or on sugar plantations.

CACLAZ was formed in 2007 with the aim of creating child labour free zones, starting with the Lowveld, where the child labour situation was more serious than the rest of the country.  It brought together the efforts of a number of organisations that wanted to see the child labour situation dealt with. 

These were the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), the General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPUZ) and the Association for Nation Wide Action for Prevention & Protection Against Child Abuse & Neglect (ANPPCAN). The government has also lent the weight of its support to the programme through the Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenisation & Empowerment, Ministry of Health & Child Welfare and the Department of Social Services.

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Zimbabwe has Africa’s highest literacy rate, standing at just over 90%.

However, this statistic hides some growing challenges in the country’s education sector, one of which is the growing problem of child labour.

 A 2013 Situational Analysis on the Status of Women’s and Children’s Rights in Zimbabwe report revealed that more than 190 000 secondary school children and 30 percent of primary school pupils drop out of school each year.

The number of children who never receive any form of formal education is also growing, with the report saying it currently stands at 10 to 15 percent .

While there are many reasons for children dropping out of school, one particularly worrying one is that more and more children have to spend their days working at home, in the field or on a plantation to help feed the family.

Even among those children who remain in school, there are many who spend long hours before or after school doing some form of labour. Out of Zimbabwe’s 5.5 million children between the ages of 5 and 17, about 45 percent are engaged in economic activities.

Key in the CACLAZ approach to getting children back into school are incubation centres which function as transitional educational facilities. At these centres former child labourers who have been out of the school system for prolonged periods receive 6-18 months of orientation before being re-integrated into the formal education system.

Another key part of the work that CACLAZ does is awareness-raising in the community.  “We realised that if people were not aware what child labour is, our work will be more difficult,” said Pascal Masocha, the CACLAZ National Co-ordinator.

According to Tatenda Makoni, Hivos’ Programme Officer for Rights & Citizenship in Southern Africa, there are plans to establish more child labour free zones in other parts of the country and to work with partners in other countries to establish the same in Malawi, Zambia and Eastern Africa.