Several primary school children in the Acholi Sub-region are
working in stone quarries and sand mining businesses as schools remain closed.
Schools were closed last week for 42 days following a surge in the
number of covid-19 infections.
The children aged between 10 to 16 years are now working as casual labourers in
quarries in some rural areas of Gulu, Kitgum and Pader districts.
Brenda Apiyo 16, a resident of Atanga mission is among some of the children who
are currently employed in the sand mining business along Ajan River in Pakeyo
Parish, Laguti Sub-county in Pader District.
Apiyo who sat her primary leaving examination (PLE) in April this year says she
had no option but to join sand quarrying to supplement her parent’s income. She
says despite the long hours she endures to mine sand, it’s a rewarding venture
because she can save some money daily.
//cue in: “an adwogo gang…
Cue out:…I gang kwan.”//
Fiona Lakot, 13 a pupil at Atanga Primary School also mining sand on Ajan river
says she is helping out her parents who are currently financially handicapped.
Lakot also reiterates that she wants to save money from her work for school
fees and buying scholastic materials once school starts.
The children earn 45,000 Shillings from a full trip of sand on a good day when
they get buyers.
But their mother Florence Adok denies claims that the children are being exploited
at all. Adok says that the children are supplementing the family’s efforts in
making more money for food and school fees at a time they are in partial
She says the children are employed in sand mining as an alternative since the
family’s main source of livelihood, agriculture has been affected by the
current lack of rainfalls.
//Cue in: “wan wa yweko…
Cue out:…yele kede eno.”//
Justine Ocen, Latanya Sub-county LCV Councilor says whereas there are no cases
of child exploitation in his area, child labour in any part of the district is
unlawful and must be condemned by leaders.
He says although parents deserve to impart practical knowledge in form of work
to their children, assigning children hard tasks such as sand mining and stone
crushing for long hours in hard conditions are undeserving.
//cue in: “pore ni lutino…
Cue out:… ni gi runye.”//
//cue in: “I want to…
Cue out: …to their parents.”//
Ocen raised concerns that the environment and the kind of work the minors are
subjected to is unhealthy for their lives.
David Okech Probation officer Pader District acknowledges receiving reports of
child labour in the district but notes that it’s subject to investigation.
He notes that the repeated school closure is bound to trigger many problems
among children most young girls who are prone to early pregnancy.
Some parents however admit to using their children as a source of labour owing
to the current partial lockdown instituted by the government which has limited
their sources of income and left them poor.
George Opiyo, a father of five children and resident of Lakwela village in
Paicho Sub-county in Gulu District says his three of his daughters are
currently helping him to crush stones into gravel.
Opiyo says he used to earn just 700 Shillings from selling a jerry-can filled
fully with stone gravel but with his daughters actively working, the family now
earns thrice daily.
//cue in: “I kare man…
Cue out:…wa kwo kede.”//
In Kitgum District, the use of children as labour in stone and sand quarries
are visible in Tefoyo East in Mucwini Sub-county, Lamola parish in Labongo
Amida sub-county, Paibwor, and Pamolo parishes in Labongo Layamo sub-county.
Michael Ogweng, the Senior District Probation officer however blames parents
for the growing numbers of children in stone and sand quarries. He says parents
are using their children to offer cheap labour in rural and urban areas.
//cue in: “Ka in icito…
Cue out:…ki megi gi.”//
Ogweng says despite many cases of child labour happening in the district, few
are reported by concerned citizens while the bulk of the case go silent under
the watch of local leaders and parents who believe it’s a normal business.
In Lamwo District, a total of 48 children were in March this year rescued by
the police while being transported to work as casual labourers in plantation
farms in Bunyoro and Busoga regions.
A Human Rights Watch and Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER)
report released in May this year revealed that the unprecedented economic
impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, together with school closures has pushed many
children into exploitative and dangerous child labour in the country.