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“Providing education is the basis of everything. But we talk about quality education.”

Kabwe (18) participated in the Children´s Forum during the V Global Conference on Elimination of Child Labour and hold a powerful speech about his experiences, including messages to political stakeholders worldwide. Read his full statement.

We are here for the elimination of child labour as it says. I am representing the African continent at large which means both the children that are virtual and those that are present in this hall. Due to me being a representative I am going to speak from both points of views that were raised during the discussions and consultations that took place.

We are here for the elimination of child labour as I earlier stated. Most of the children believe in Convention 182 of ILO. Convention 182 states the worst forms of child labour and most of the children want to eliminate – all of the children want to eliminate the worst forms of child labour. Due to this, others have foreseen in their countries that the situation is not favorable in that everything could be eliminated and all solutions could be implemented in one goal. Because of the four conferences that we have had and this is the fifth there has been less of a change, the number has remained constant, the estimate, or it has been rising here in Africa. So, there is no viable solution that has been there in the past four conferences.

Due to this, others prefer that Convention 138 should be utilized. Convention 138 sets on the Minimum Age the standards and regulation of the kind of work that the child can do. Because in the definition of child labour we have issues of talking about the mental well-being, the fundamental rights of a child such as education and other things that if they are violated it is considered to be child labour. But the other argument from the other point of view states that those fundamental rights are not argued, are not violated so which means they say it is not child labour for them but they request that you, our governments, monitor and evaluate everything.

The other points that we consolidated on is consultation. We believe that consultation is the best way to get children into any forum. In the past four forums that we have had we have discovered that children have been less consulted compared to this one. So, we are very excited that this is the first consultation. But at the same time others are very sceptic that this consultation might erode to elements that do not favor children who are working, who have developed a sense of responsibility so that they can attend their education due to various reasons. The other group has voted for the elimination of child labour. So, I am representing the two views, the two views that are coming from every African child in this country. So, the other thing is that they want to be recognized nationally and globally as citizens and to be actors, central actors of implementing and sustaining the planet and all its inhabitants because they are the future generation of tomorrow and they are going to continue from where the adults are going to live their legacy. They will continue to burn the fire that adults started and they will keep it going just to be ensured.

The government should take responsibility and find sectors that deal with children with a lot of funds that would be sufficient enough to support all children, that is one of the solutions. The other thing is as Ashley said, we are eradicating child labour and that is why we are here.

Global Conference against Child Labour in Durban, Children´s Forum, Panel with Kabwe (Zambia, Dialogue Works)

I had a question that was related to the same that talked about children being in school. So, when you started the march, then the march was done, we had the first conference. But since the four conferences, what happened is that in some areas it has been reduced, in some areas not. So, we are representing not just the great achievement that South Africa has had, but we are representing the entire continent as a whole. Why is our figure constant and not increasing? Which means that there is a flow in the system on how we should work on this. According to the views that come out: Children have requested that they want to be in school, they want to be big people in life, they have dreams, they have visions. But due to their disabilities to acquire those, due to different situations that they are facing to follow their dreams, they can’t prevent being working. And this working is not without education, they do it for their education. So, they do it so that they can become a lawyer, they do it so that they can become ministers, they can become delegates, they can work for ILO, they do it so that they can be someone. So, if we work on these flows in the system, then we find that child labour would be eradicated. But if we keep on saying, no child should not work and don’t give them an alternative in the end we are not doing anything, we are not searching the solution. We should give them a solution, we have identified the problem. Let’s give them a solution that is sustaining. Let’s not give them a solution that last for a while and then end up the other way around.

I was watching the news in the morning, I have seen people working and there was a testimony that said he was working since he was 13. And after working since he was 13 he is now employing elderly people so that they can provide for their children and not allow their children to work. So if he didn’t go through this experience of working, he wouldn’t have helped those. It is all about the experience they went through. They go through that so that they become big people in life. They don’t go through that so that they can go out there and say „no, I am not educated“, they do it for the education they want. We have a lot of African children that want to be big people in life, but restrictions have felt. They would do part-time work after school and this work would be trading on the streets, trying to sell goods so that they can raise money for buying a t-shirt, going in agriculture, try to do certain work. But what they request from ILO is that ILO should enforce their regulations. You guys made the conventions, 138. You said the minimum age is 15. In other words, you said at the end of formal education, that’s where it should be allowed. But again, you can’t bug and set different categories of work. Hazardous work is allowed for children who are above 18, they are considered to be adults so they are given hazardous work.

Then we come back to our continent. Our continent also came up with visions that have been implemented. We have vision 2030, that vision is also working towards it. So the first march was a start, but in between we believe that someone is sleeping in between here. I am someone who would say to the government and tell them that there are working children. And they wouldn’t want to listen the word „working“ because they know that directly children are doing that just so that they can go to school. Providing education is the basis of everything. But we talk about quality education. We don’t want an education that you tell me this is how you grow a plant on theory. Give me practical so that even if I live that education on graduator level I still support myself. I will still wake up one day and say „that madame told me this is how you plant“.

In Zambia we plant beans. So once someone is told from childhood this is how you plant maize, this is how you care for it, on a small scale. Even if it just means one seed and the child watches the corps grow. That child will never lose that because we say charity begins at home. So we are inviting and insisting on saying „be educated, the government will employ you“ and then tomorrow the government comes and say we can’t create employment at this point. But getting more and more children. Why are you telling them: tomorrow you are a teacher, tomorrow you are a lawyer when you are not going to employ them? So, if we are going to eradicate this it has to work both ways. If the government says be educated, tomorrow we employ you as a lawyer. As long as he is done, employ him. Don’t tell him that the private sector will employ him. Tell him that we ourselves are going to employ you.

So, this children, their voice is that you as much as we have a participation this time. Let’s make practical things that work for the children. Don’t give them a theoretical education that they won’t use in life. They only take that paper. Once they don’t have stationary level you would say no, you are not qualified, you can’t be a doctor. But if you tell them today: „Plant this plant and then come back and have this“, that child will know how to make money and that money will forever last. That’s why we find that for us solving poverty issues is investing in quality education, not in theory, because if we always go for theory, we never have results. But if we go for practical, we have results. Thank you!