The term “child labour” is sometimes 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 normally dangerous and harmful to children and also interferes with their schooling by depriving them of the opportunity to attend, obliging them to leave school prematurely or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work schedules. Thirteen-year old, Abu Kargbo, has been mining stone for the past two years at Imatt community together with her mother Fatu. He explained, “I started to mine stone when I was 11 and up to this point I am very active in stone mining.” Being a class six pupil at the UMC Primary school, Kargbo said it is very difficult for him to study during the evening hours, as he is usually tired.
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According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Article 110 of the Convention dealing with child labour issues, any work that involves physical, psychological or sexual abuse, underground work, under water, operating dangerous machinery, equipment and tool are works that hinders the performance of children, and children below the age of 13 are prohibited from such work. In a report released by the International Confederation of Free Trade Union (ICFTU) that 72% of the children in Sierra Leone are affected by child labour. The report which shows serious violations particularly covering child labour and forced labour, covered the range of core labour standard including trade union rights, non discrimination at work, elimination of child labour and the prohibition of forced labour. According to Abu’s mother, “We are very poor and my son is the only helper to me for us to survive.” She said Abu is attending school everyday and he normally comes to the mining ground after school. Fatmata Jabbati is a ten-year old girl. She wears tattered clothes and hauls water with her mother at a construction site in Dworzark. They are paid Le1,000 per five gallon container and according to her mother, Bintu, she is raising such money in order to pay their rent, as they hail from Kenema and life is very difficult. Sand carrying is another hard activity done by children as young as 12-years old. Alfred Dumbuya is one of the children that transports sand from one point to another. It normally weighs from 25 to 45 kg, which causes a lot of discomfort for these children. He said, “Sand is very difficult to carry but I have no option. We need to survive. We are not doing it on a daily basis but whenever it is available we engage in it.” The Ministry of Labour is responsible to tackle child labour issue in the country and efforts to reach them proved futile.
Mohamed J. Bah
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