According to IPEC The term “child labour” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. It refers to work that: is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children.
Child labour is still common in many parts of the world. Estimates for child labour vary. It ranges between 250 and 304 million, if children aged 5–17 involved in any economic activity are counted. If light occasional work is excluded, ILO estimates there were 153 million child labourers aged 5–14 worldwide in 2008. This is about 20 million less than ILO estimate for child labourers in 2004.
Some 60 percent of the child labour was involved in agricultural activities such as farming, dairy, fisheries and forestry. Another 25% of child labourers were in service activities such as retail, hawking goods, restaurants, load and transfer of goods, storage, picking and recycling trash, polishing shoes, domestic help, and other services.
The remaining 15% laboured in assembly and manufacturing in informal economy, home-based enterprises, factories, mines, packaging salt, operating machinery, and such operations.
Two out of three child workers work alongside their parents, in unpaid family work situations. Some children work as guides for tourists, sometimes combined with bringing in business for shops and restaurants. Child labour predominantly occurs in the rural areas (70%) and informal urban sector (26%).
Child labour in Africa is still an issue today due to the unclear definition of adolescence and how much time is needed for children to engage in activities that are crucial for their development. Another issue that often comes into play is the link between what constitutes as child labour within the household due to the cultural acceptance of children helping run the family business. In the end, there is a consistent challenge for the national government to strengthen its grip politically on child labour, and to increase education and awareness on the issue of children working below the legal age limit.
This type of work has become such a societal norm that people rarely blink at this type of exploitation, and it is encouraged amongst the rural communities where if a family can’t cater for all it’s members, some of the underage children get sent off to stay in the city with rich families and work as maids and helps either at the homes or business places, exposing them to new environment without proper education.
These kids are forced to grow up early as the dangers they face force them out of childish tendencies and into survival mode at all times. In other situations, these kids start hawking food stuffs and other essentials such as sachet water, snacks, fruits all at the risk of being molested, manipulated and taken advantage of.
Schools in rural areas are not left out in this act, as students are made to farm on school property and carry wood for teachers and even fetch water for staff on school property.
Despite attempts to curb such acts, ignorance is the main backbone of this culture as parents find no wrong in making their children work from early ages.
Awareness about the effects of this action on children is becoming more pronounced as NGOS and child rights activists continually work to stop this practice.