International Labour Organisation (ILO) has commended Malawi for her efforts in fighting child labour but says more needs to be done to end the vice that is affecting about 1.2 million children nationwide.
Child labour is alleged to be rampant in tobacco and tea-growing districts but officials from the two sectors have always denied the allegations.
ILO chief technical adviser Wangui Irimu said in an interview in Lilongwe last week Malawi is doing a lot to curb child labour after reviewing the Employment Act and has developed a national action plan on elimination of child labour.
She said: “There are challenges in any fight but in child labour, Malawi is trying her best only that the fight is facing challenges due to poverty. This country has the enabling legal framework in place and government seems determined to end child labour.”
Irimu, however, said for Malawi to completely win the battle against child labour there is need to make primary school not just free but compulsory.
Secretary for Labour, Youth and Manpower Development Patrick Kabambe admitted that child labour is a big problem in the country that needs a multifaceted approach to tackle it.
“As government, we are doing our best but more players need to assist us, including the media, non-governmental organisations and traditional leaders. Even the Judiciary must also give stiff sentences to perpetrators because we need all our children in school,” he said.
Employers Consultative Association of Malawi (Ecam) council member Irene Dzanjalimodzi said there is need for stakeholders to help in withdrawing children from child labour and send them to school if the vicious circle of poverty is to end.
“In tobacco and tea-growing districts, child labour is rampant and we need to get the children out of these situations so that they can be integrated into society,” she said.
Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) deputy secretary general Grace Nyirenda urged government to intensify inspections to ensure that children involved in this vice are rescued and integrated into society.