Jinja children resort to street vending amidst uncertainty school opening

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Jinja children resort to street vending amidst uncertainty school opening

Having lost nearly two years of school due to Covid-19 lockdown measures , school age going children in Jinja City have now resorted to street vending.

This has led to growing fears of a risk of a whole generation children in the country being lost as a result of the effect closure of schools and disruption of normal life brought about by Covid-19 restrictions.

Children between seven and 15 years can been seen on the streets of the city selling tomatoes, boiled eggs, onions and sweet bananas, among other consumables.

City officials have noted with concern the rising numbers of children vendors and are noting that it is due to some parents losing their jobs to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It has emerged that most of the children come from the areas of Masese-Walukuba in Jinja South East, Bugembe and Mafubira in Jinja North and as far as Bugerere in Kayunga District, among other destinations.

A 10-year-old Primary Five pupil last Wednesday told this media that his father, who was working in one of the steel factories in Jinja, and his mother, who was working in a hotel, lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“My mother buys bananas, which she gives me and my sister to sell on the streets,” the boy said, adding that when they return home without any sales, they are punished.

The children also said gangs of street children take the money away from them, eliciting fear to return home.Mr Hassan Ssebandeke, a teacher in Wandago, Mayuge District, said the prevailing poverty has contributed to the rampant child labour of various forms in the communities.

“There are some demands for the girl child such as sanitary pads; when the child doesn’t have them, she becomes vulnerable,” Mr Ssebandeke noted. Mr Alfred Ochaya, the executive director of Support and Love via Education International, a non-governmental organisation , said Covid-19 made many people lose jobs and the effect is now trickling to the children. “I recently came across a boy in the city at night who was afraid to return home because the four trays of eggs he was given to sell were stolen by unknown people,” Mr Ochaya said.

He added that the most affected are children whose parents have not been staying with them at home.

Mr Paul Kagolokakyomya, the director of Ghetto Native Initiative in Masese, Jinja South-East, said the home learning project has not benefited most school-going children.

Ms Juliet Faith Namanse, the executive director of Busoga Governance and Social Accountability Network, said child labour is very high in the area as parents send their children to work in sugarcane plantations.

The public relations officer in the Ministry of Labour, Gender and Social Development, Mr Frank Mugabi, said there are about two million children between five and 17 years engaged in child labour across the country.

“With the current situation (of Covid-19), the number could be higher since children are not in school. However, the ministry will enforce the National Child Labour Policy of 2006 and the National Action Plan on Elimination of Child Labour of 2017-2022 to stop the vice,” Mr Mugabi said in an interview.

He added that employers are not supposed to hire children below age of 16 and at district level, labour officers are required to conduct regular inspection as per government regulations to eliminate child labour.

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