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Sierra Leone News: Government must pay attention to child labour

Thousands of children work, outside school, on a daily basis. Statistics show that an overwhelming 71.6% of children between the ages of 5-14 years are working, either in a paid or unpaid labour. Children can be found on the street selling water, groundnuts, cucumbers, butterscotch, etc.
According to 14-year old, Aminata Sesay, who normally walks around Freetown with her blind father Pa Lamin Turay, “This is the only means of survival for us. I am aware that I should be in school instead of moving around with my dad, but what will we eat at the end of the day.”
Government policies continue to prohibit girls who were pregnant from attending regular public schools or taking secondary and post-secondary school entrance exams, making them more vulnerable to the worst forms of child labour. Boys and girls who lead disabled adults around the city as beggars is a prime example of how children are exploited for work. The Child Rights Act of 2007 gives enormous protection to children. But, implementation of the Child Rights Act has been minimal.
The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) report released in Geneva on core labour standards in Sierra Leone shows serious violations, particularly concerning child labour and forced labour. According to a global trade unionist, “Child labour in Sierra Leone is rampant and law enforcement is weak.” Several thousand children were found to be working in diamond mining, mainly boys.
Some of the most common form of child labour includes, but not limited to child prostitution, mining, domestic work and begging. Sierra Leone has signed but not ratified the international convention on the worst forms of child labour or the Convention on Minimum Age.
On Monday 20 August 2018, President Julius Maada Bio launched the free quality education programme, reducing some financial burden on parents. Hopefully, this will encourage parents to send their children to school instead of forcing them into labour activities.
Pa Lamin Turay said, “Aminata is my only child and she is the only one that is willing to help me out in order for us to survive. I pay my rent and look after my family out of what I get from begging and Aminata is playing a major role for us to survive. I will eventually die, if she moves away from me.”
According to the Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, they will be engaging in a nationwide campaign with regards to early marriage, child labour and a host of other activities affecting children.
15-year old, Abdulai Thoronka, normally assists his mother to mine stone in Dworzark. He spends four hours every day to grind and break granite stone used to build houses by construction companies. He said, “I get tired after such work and as a result of that I will not read my notes.”
A social worker, Alex Koroma, said, “We are doing everything possible to ensure that children are well protected.”
By Mohamed J. Bah
Thursday August 23, 2018.

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