Child street vendors on the rise as schools remain closed

Kasese Municipal council authorities have expressed concern over the growing number of children that are taking up street vending following the closure of schools and some markets in Kasese town.

In March this year, government shutdown schools and weekly and monthly markets in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19. Consequently, many children of school-going age have resorted to vending of foodstuffs, mainly cooked maize, yellow bananas, vegetables, and fruits among others.

Commenting on the phenomenon, Kasese Town Mayor Godfrey Kabbyanga said, “We have temporarily allowed vendors to move their foodstuffs on the streets but not children; they were taken out of schools for fear of Coronavirus, not to go around selling food.”

The Mayor further threatened to arrest and prosecute any parents whose children would be caught engaging in vending.

“Their parents to are free to engage in the trade if they want to, but we are devising means to end children’s involvement in vending,” he said.

According to the Kasese District Health Officer, Dr. Yusuf Baseke, Kasese has recorded a total of 40 COVID-19 cases, 15 of which are from the community.

The Deputy Town Clerk, Kasese Municipal Council, Kayiri Kambasu said that the council was committed to limiting children’s exposure to the deadly disease.

Kabbyanga also noted with concern that several bars in the district were operating illegally, contrary to the presidential COVID-19 directives.

“We are compiling lists of such business, and we shall withdraw their licenses, because they are endangering the whole country.”

Children’s plight

The plight of children in Kasese was compounded by floods that hit the district in May this year, displacing hundreds, including children. According to a report by Kasese’s Local Government:

“While in the struggle to combat COVID-19, Kasese district experienced concurrently floods on the 7th, 10th and 20th May, 2020 affecting 9,916 households, 48, 947 people, with about 80% of being children.”

The report adds, “Unfortunately, because of the effects of the crisis on livelihoods, children are often the first to suffer. The crisis has the potential danger of pushing more of these already vulnerable children into child labor.”

According to the Kasese district Senior Labour Officer, Karafule Swaib, “Already there are an estimated 25,000 children in Kasese engaged in child labour.”

These children, he said, are now at even greater risk of dropping out of school altogether as they spend more time eking a living.

“Most children work because of the household’s poverty to provide for food, shelter, clothing, school fees, and scholastic materials (books and uniform),” he observed.

In Kasese, child labour is commonly employed in agriculture, sand mining, brick making, stone quarrying, boda boda, street and market vending, fishing and car washing, while others are involved in child prostitution.

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