A new report that more than 11,000 children in Swaziland are forced to stay away from school to tend cattle is only the tip of an iceberg in child exploitation in the kingdom.
A draft Report on Child Labour In Herding In Rural Areas of Swaziland published in the Times of Swaziland on Thursday (16 November 2017) revealed 11,329 children between the ages of eight and 17 were not attending school because they were engaged in herding. Of these, 1,917 were aged between eight and 12 years.
Children reported they were kept away from school because parents or guardians could not afford school fees or they had to work to help pay family debts.
But the report failed to uncover the full extent of forced child labour in Swaziland where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
A report on forced child labour in Swaziland from the United States Department of Labor covering 2016 identified what it called ‘categorical worst forms of child labour’ widespread in the kingdom as livestock herding, domestic work, farming and market vending.
It said Swaziland was ‘complicit in the use of forced child labour’. It concluded Swaziland made ‘no advancement’ because ‘local chiefs continued to force children to engage in agricultural and domestic work.
‘Penalties for refusing to perform this work included evicting families from their village and confiscating livestock.’
The Department of Labor said Swaziland had signed a number of international conventions on child labour but they had not been enforced.
The report said children were being trafficked outside the kingdom to neighbouring countries such as South Africa, ‘for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor in agriculture and domestic work’.
It also said some Mozambican boys migrate to Swaziland and become victims of human trafficking and are forced to conduct street work and herd livestock. Lubombo and Manzini were said to be the worst regions for forced child labour.
The report said, ‘Swazi children have become increasingly vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor due to the high prevalence of HIV, low economic growth, and high poverty levels.’
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