There is growing concern over the increase in child labour in Bulawayo as many children are engaging in various forms of labour after school hours.

Child labour refers to the employment of children in any work that deprives them of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school in a manner that affects them mentally, physically and socially.

Most children are child labourers due to the socio-economic situations.

Families cannot adequately fulfill their basic needs, leading to parents obliging their children to engage in risky jobs at an early age.

A survey conducted by the ZBC News in the Bulawayo CBD showed children in the streets washing cars, vending or begging with their disabled parents.

“I am aged 12 and I stay in Makokoba with my aunt. I come to town to wash cars every day after school so that l can buy food for my family. My aunt does not work so coming here helps a lot. I make about $8 a day,” said one minor.

Children living in the streets are prone to different forms of exploitation and abuse. Motorists concurred that they prefer having their cars washed by young children as the cost is much less compared to going to a car wash.

“Going to the carwash is expensive as they charge five dollars and these children charge a dollar. In a way, we are helping these children survive and buy stuff they need,” said one man.

Bulawayo Childline branch manager, Douglas Jumbe highlighted that as stakeholders, they need to deal with the root causes of the problem and not the symptoms.

“Let us look at the push factors that are driving these children to the streets. Let’s talk about our social protection system, is it strong enough, is it addressing issues of eradicating poverty, is it also addressing issues of getting children back to school?” he said.

Children rights activists are on record urging the government to ban child labour on tobacco farms as children are deeply exposed to nicotine inhalation, thus affecting their health. According to United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), around 1 in 4 children are engaged in child labour in the world’s poorest countries.