A team of investigators from the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs who carried labour inspections in the Gantsi and Charleshill areas has uncovered that children of school-going age engaged in harmful work at farms in the areas. The farms are mostly owned by white farmers.
A preliminary statement released by the concerned Ministry state that it has observed that although the parents of the affected children claimed that the children were not employed, the type of work they carry out clearly deprives them of their schooling, their children-hood development and is harmful to their physical and mental development.
“The Ministry will engage with relevant stakeholders like Ministry of Education, Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Local Government to establish why the said children are not is school.”
Acting Chief Public Relations Officer at Labour Ministry Tidimalo Palai confirmed the inspections whose purpose he said was to establish if there are any cases of child labour in the Ghanzi areas.
At the same time, early this year, Permanent Secretary in the same Ministry Ikwatlhaeng Bagopi said they decided to launch investigations into the matter after receiving complaints from residents in various kgotla meetings. He said in some instances some residents even accused government of dragging its feet in investigating the matter.
Meanwhile Children organisation, Childline Botswana recently highlighted that it has submitted a report to the International Labour Organization, titled “towards the elimination of the worst forms of child labour (TECL).”
However, The Telegraph has been informed that the investigations which were centered in the North East, also unearthed instances of child labour where children were reported to be employed as farm workers or exploited for commercial sex.
The Childline report to the ILO highlighted the need for specific legislation and policy on child labour in Botswana. However, the report admitted that Botswana has legislation and policies which impact directly and indirectly on the issue.
“While the constitution is silent on specific protection of children, the Employment Act (CAP 47:01) which came into effect in 1984 provides wide protection to children and young people in employment,” read the report.
While the Employment Act prohibits employment of children aged 15-18 years, there are exceptions, as it permits employment of a child who is 14 years but not attending school to do light work that is not harmful to his/her health. The act allows for a 14 year old to be employed by a family member if such work is approved by the Commissioner of Labour.┬á
The Act┬áfurther states that a child of 14 years who is in school may be similarly employed during vacations.