Home » Human Rights » Children’s Rights Take Back Seat

Walking in the streets of Harare one gets to have an assumption that education is no longer a priority due to the number of children engaging in vending at various areas in the CBD during school hours.

According to Chapter 27 of the new Constitution, basic education is compulsory for children, Chapter 19 of the children’s rights states that children should be protected from exploitative labour practices that are inappropriate for the child’s age and place at risk the children’s well-being, education or social development.

Every morning, I witness a family, both parents blind they have a toddler, a son, who should be at least in Grade 6 and another daughter of about 15 years of age, both out of school commuting to the CBD as their parents’ aid.

As soon they get into town, they go separate ways. Listening closely, I hear their conversation, the parents are setting a target of what each of the two grown children should bring at day’s end.

It becomes clear that child vendors are not selling to achieve their wants as children but are doing so to help feed and take care of the family.

“We are finding it hard to put food on the table and everybody including primary children should wake up and go to work every morning to earn a living,” said Mai Rutendo, a vendor at Fourth Street bus terminus.

Tanaka Mudeme, a Form Two student at Corpus Christ College in Kuwadzana, claims she was forced into vending by her parents.

“My parents say the economy is harsh, they could not pay for my school fees which are required monthly and that I had to work for food for my siblings. It’s not something I would wish for anyone since I experience abuse from other male hawkers and passers-by but I have no other option.” said Mudeme. However, Tanaka’s case is favourable since he is at least going to school, paving way for a better future.

Most parents have shown lack of concern for the situation they have exposed their children to. Instead, they are blaming the harsh economy for this predicament.

“As parents we are struggling to put food on the table, talk less of paying fees, thus we end up forcing our children to drop out of school to help out to sell fruits and other goods,” said one male vendor along Rezende Street

He went on to say that ever since he brought his son who is supposed to be in Form One into the vending business, life has improved as they are earning enough money to cater for basic needs such as food and shelter.

Zimbabwe continues to fall deeper into economic and social crisis as more than 90 percent of the population is jobless.

Concern for children’s safety and protection has become a global issue and has evoked considerable debate since the publication of the United Nations’ widely ratified Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1989.

A dominant theme within this charter and within the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (1990) is the recognition that children are individuals with rights that need to be respected and protected.

More specifically, Article 32 of the UNCRC states that children should be protected from “economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.

Source : The Herald