LUUKA. The Luuka District inspector of schools, Ms Jane Nabwire, has said 12 per cent of the pupils in the district have dropped out of school to offer cheaper labour at sugarcane and rice plantations.
Ms Nabwire attributed the increased child labour cases to famine which she said has propelled parents to send their children to sugarcane plantations in search of food.
She said they have now started sensitising all stakeholders on the need for children to go to school.
“We have held several meetings with most of the stakeholders to sensitise them on the need to educate their children. We are working on it because sometimes police intervene to chase the children from the sugarcane plantations and trucks. Child labour has forced most of the children in some of the schools to attend schools during the examination time and that is the reason why Luuka always the worst in performance,” she said.
Ms Nabwire said though most of the schools in Luuka are under Universal Primary Education, many parents have not embraced the programme and force their children to engage in child labour instead of taking them to school.
At Bugabula Church of Uganda Primary School in Bugabula Village, Bulongo Sub-county, the number of boys attending school reduces every day as many decide to engage in Bukendi village, Bulongo Sub-county, the head teacher, Mr Richard Kiisa Kirunda, said some children are the bread winners of the families due to escalating poverty in the area.
“Like in Primary Five, we have 18 boys compared to 27 girls. Boys engage in sugarcane cutting because many are bread winners of their families, if it is not harvesting season for sugarcane, they engage in fish farming or at rice plantations where they are hired to scare away birds,’’ Mr Kirunda said.
Mr Fred Kanyare, a resident of Kibuto village in Bulongo Sub-county, Luuka District, said poverty and ignorance are some of the key issues that push children into forced labour.
The Luuka District chairperson, Mr Baker Luwangula, said since sugarcane growing is the major source of income for many people in the district, this prompts parents to force their children to engage in sugarcane cutting to earn a living.
He said the district has taken measures against child labour through liaising with the police and other security organs.
“We are making ambushes when hunting for suspects of child labour by the intervention of police and it is somehow working out, we also sensitise the community on the importance of taking children to school,’’ Mr Luwangula said.
He said they have also made some ordinances where those with sugarcane plantations are not allowed to employ children.
The Luuka Resident District Commissioner, Mr Steven Bewayo, said child labour persists because sugarcane growers and transporters target cheaper labour.
“Many of the sugarcane growers are complaining of denying them cheap labour when we refuse them to employ children. They pay them between Shs1,000 and Shs2,500 a day compared to a situation when they employee the adults,’’ Mr Bewayo said.