SA is no coun­try for young kids

CityPress - - Voices -

The next time your chil­dren com­plain about wash­ing the dishes, mak­ing you a cup of tea or the qual­ity of the house­hold Wi-Fi, go to the Stats SA web­site and show them the Sur­vey of Ac­tiv­i­ties of Young Peo­ple.

In it, they will find out how worse off other kids be­tween the ages of seven and 17 are.

Ru­ral chil­dren have it par­tic­u­larly hard: 8.9% of them are child labour­ers, de­fined by UN con­ven­tions as “any type of em­ploy­ment or work which by its na­ture or the cir­cum­stances in which it is car­ried out is likely to jeop­ar­dise the health, safety or morals of young” peo­ple be­low the age of 18. In KwaZulu-Na­tal, one in 10 chil­dren is a child labourer, as op­posed to 2% of chil­dren in ur­ban ar­eas. Many have been in­jured while work­ing and oth­ers say they find the dust and the heat they are forced to toil in par­tic­u­larly hard.

Then there are the 13.7% of chil­dren aged be­tween seven and 10 who are ex­pected to do their school­work, chores around the house, as well as par­tic­i­pate in eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity such as work­ing at the fam­ily’s busi­ness. That per­cent­age in­creases as chil­dren get older, up to 27.7% for teens be­tween the ages of 15 and 17. For chil­dren whose par­ents do not live with them, that rate rises to 30.1%.

Chil­dren work, they say, to earn some pocket money and to con­trib­ute to the fam­ily in­come.

On the whole, the sit­u­a­tion of South Africa’s chil­dren has im­proved: there were 577 000 child labour­ers in 2015, 202 000 fewer than in 2010. But that’s still not great. Statis­ti­cian-Gen­eral Pali Le­hohla told City Press that many chil­dren in ru­ral ar­eas were forced to skip school be­cause they needed to fend for them­selves.

So, the next time your pre­cious dar­lings com­plain about help­ing out in the gar­den, tell them to be grate­ful they are not in a vil­lage plough­ing and plant­ing an en­tire field. And you don’t even have to be­gin your lec­ture with the phrase: “In my day...”

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