Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Child labour
By Editor
Fri 07 June 2013, 14:00 CAT

HE issue of child labour seems to be grossly misunderstood to mean no work at all for a child. As a result of this misconception, we have children who are growing up totally spoilt.

They can't clean their own mess; they can't make their own beds; they can't clean the plates on which they are fed. Everything has to be done for them. Today, even the most humble worker is an employer of another humble worker as a maid. Both the humble worker employer and his or her children don't do anything for themselves. Everything is done for them by the humble worker employee they have employed as a maid. The pay is very low but even with that very low payment, one still finds someone to employ as a maid.

As a result of this, we have children who are growing up not knowing anything, not being able to do anything for themselves.

Some of them can't even boil water and make a cup of tea for themselves. We have teenagers who are just short of having a maid to clean their bottoms and flush the toilets for them. This may seem an exaggeration but this is how bad things have become.

Michael Sata is talking about going into the bush to collect firewood when he was growing up in Mpika. Many parents in Mpika town today, very near to his village, cannot allow that to happen because doing so is a sign of not having enough love for the child; it is child labour. Even at school, the class- rooms are not cleaned by the pupils themselves. There are workers doing this; there is no work the children do at school.

Teachers who have tried to make children do some work, some cleaning have been harangued by parents. So today's children do nothing but watch television, eat and…

We seem to have grossly misunderstood the issue of child labour. Making a child clean his mess; making a child make his bed or clean his plates is not child labour. Child labour is work that is considered harmful to the child, and therefore should be eliminated.

However, child labour should not be automatically associated with children who engage in non-harmful work.

Non-harmful work is part-time and does not stop children from playing, having an education. And this can be beneficial to the child. It
can be beneficial in the sense that it gives the child the opportunity to learn certain necessary things in life. It teaches children useful
social skills.

Therefore, it is vitally important to not only eliminate harmful child labour, but to also allow children to learn useful social skills. And this may help some children gain useful skills that they can use to continue their studies and gain an education.

It is vitally important to support children who do have to work so that they are able to continue their studies and gain an education. Strict bans on child labour may cause more harm than good, forcing children to work in underground and more dangerous conditions than they would otherwise.

And certain things have to be taken into consideration when looking at what constitutes child labour. For instance, there are certain things a child living in an affluent community may not need to do that may be necessary for a child living in a poor neighbourhood. There is need for local definitions of what constitutes child labour.

A poor approach to the issue of child labour can cause a lot of problems for children. Today, we have adults who are still staying with their parents simply because they cannot live a life of their own. We have 30-year-olds who are still treated as children being protected from child labour. These are provided with all the necessities of life and luxuries like cigarettes, alcohol, perfumes, nice clothes and so on and so forth by their parents. They are being treated the same way they were treated as under-fives. Some of them are even bringing spouses in their parents' homes and siring children there. Both themselves and their children are protected from 'child labour'. The only people who work are the parents and the servants they have employed.

These are the consequences or the results of our narrow definition of child labour. We have a generation that has been destroyed by the 'love' or rather 'foolishness' of their parents. This is a generation that receives everything from the parents. They have degrees obtained from expensive universities abroad and locally but they don't work, they don't do anything. Those degrees are just there to help them in discourse with others when they are drinking. Everything is about my mummy this, my daddy that, my bally this and that. Some of them are in their forties still being protected from 'child labour'. Where will this end? What will be the consequences of all this on the individuals involved and on the nation?

Michael is very right when he says: "If our parents brought us up the way we are bringing them up today, we wouldn't be here.

These children are not objects. When I was growing up, I used to fetch firewood. That's what made me to be disciplined…"

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