Rwandan Tea Still On U.S. Black List Over Child Labor
By Jean De La Croix Tabaro, 14 June 2012
In the context of the World Day against Child Labor on June 12, a survey that was published in 2010 in Rwanda indicates that 79, 3% of kids involved in child labor are in agriculture while 12, 6% of them are in other activities which include domestic services.
As far as agriculture is concerned, Damien Nzamwita, who is in charge of social security policy and child labor control at Mifotra notes that by the time this report was conducted in 2008, those children were found for instance in plantations of Irish potatoes and especially tea plantations. He however assured that much effort had been made by government and employers to stop this trend, and that today it is no longer the case.
Nevertheless, the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) which inspects the employment of children as labor in different business fields, still put Rwanda tea factories on black list for years 2010 and 2011, because of allegations of child labor.
Yet Corneille Ntakirutimana, the deputy director general in charge of Production Support and Chain Development in National Agriculture Export Development Board (NAEB) does not agree. “The research was conducted during the holidays, when some children go with their parents to the plantations, but it does not mean that our tea factories employ children,” he explained.
And Nzamwita of MIFOTRA confirms that there is no reason for Rwanda to be on the list given that the tea factories have taken measures to prevent child labor in the plantations. He says that tea factory managers who have decided to track those children and send them back to school.
For instance in Nyaruguru district, at Mata tea factory, labor inspector Gilbert Uwimana is adamant that child employment is no longer an issue. “I go for field work two times a week, but I have found that for Mata tea factory, there is no more child labor,” he says. Yet he admits that there are still some problems but only at Nshili-Kivu tea factory, where they have reduced the problem by 70% but the remaining 30% work in private, and not factory, plantations. He is confident though that this too will be solved.
“We put those children in the nine years basic education and give them school material. Those who don’t want to go to school, have the option of vocational training,” explains Jean Nepomuscène Nkurikiyinka, the director of Mata tea factory.
On Friday, a meeting will be held bringing together NGOs which advocate for children, tea factory managers, NAEB, government officials and other activists to assess the situation. “We have given ourselves a target to eradicate this problem by October. From then, we will apply again to have our name removed on the list,” Ntakirutimana of NAEB says.
I am not too political – admittedly because I don’t understand most of it however it was not that long ago – my grandmother’s era even that children in the USA did not always continue going to school and dropped out to work to support a family, or before that only the boys were “properly” educated. I feel it has more to do with the society one lives in and maybe the USA should not dictate how other countries do things. Unless there is literal ABUSE to these children I am standing in the middle on this one.
Sometimes it is what it takes to make it in one’s society and working versus going to school even now in the USA is still up for debate in higher education. Granted I want all ALL children EVERYWHERE to have all the opportunity available to them but in some places in some situations working for the family is what is needed and best for the child too.
Maybe I am totally wrong and I know others will disagree and I am open to any education on the matter but I am totally opposed to any sensationalism – the USA does not really have it all correct IMO all the time.
I agree—the US idea of children/childhood is very different from other countries, and in fact is a pretty “new” creation. There’s no excuse for child abuse, but in many places starting to work when you are about 13 (if they get 9 years of education) is not the big exploitative deal many people make it out to be. That may be considered adulthood there (and for a long time it was in many places). Of course we don’t know the exact circumstances here, but I think it’s too easy to just jump on the “oh they’re evil” bandwagon.
I hear you. I’ve grown up around agriculture and many children take that time off from school to help smaller family owned/operated farms. They still get schooling for the majority of the year and do not seem harmed by it. I know the high school I attended made special exceptions for them in the form of classes at different times and easements in the attendance policy. They could even take classes through the college as correspondence for their high school credits. They still graduated and helped on the farm, dairy or even ranch. With out the children’s help, those families would be hard pressed to make it for the year.
Isn’t there a difference between a society where children are expected to help with the adult work to a reasonable degree, and a society where children are essentially enslaved to support their families because no one is paid a living wage? I was under the impression that this was more about the latter than the former, although I also admit that I am not familiar with the issue.
Also, I think all children of the world deserve a basic education as a fundamental human right, and withholding that in favour of having children work IS abuse. Again, I think there’s a difference between getting an education between work (as Missy is describing – I have an uncle who grew up helping on his family’s farm, I see nothing wrong with that, he is still an educated man) and not getting an education at all. Is it the latter thing which is going on? Then yeah, that’s a problem.