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16 Mar 2019

Alex Gitta, Deutsche Welle

Uganda: More than 2 million children engaged in exploitative labour practices including in agribusiness & retail sectors, says columnist

"Uganda: Child labor continues despite new anti-exploitation laws"

Thirteen-year-old Bugembe is just one of more than 2 million children in Uganda who are currently being exploited as child laborers. "I am not in school because I have no school fees, so I sell my uncle's polythene bags in Nakasero Market and I get here at 5 am – I have not been here for long," he told DW. His work means he often stays in Kampala city until late in the evening and must be careful to avoid the yellow-clad Kampala City Council workers who arrest street vendors. Bugembe says his uncle does not pay him for his work...

Unfortunately, Bugembe's situation is not unique. In Ruti market near Mbarara in Western Uganda, DW met 13-year-old Colins Turyamuhaki, who earns a living by packing sacks of bananas. But he also must take on the responsibility of paying his own school fees, as well as those of his younger brother. "I pack bags. For each bag I am paid 3000 (€0.70; $0.85) or 2000 shillings, but in a day I can pack like three or four. So I use this money to buy books and school fees, and then my parents also top-up when they can," he told DW. Turyamuhaki only manages to take a break once all of the banana trucks have left for Kampala. In the afternoon, he helps shoppers in the market carry their goods for a fee. Then in the evening, he sells fruit on the streets of Mbarara. He only hopes he will earn enough to complete his education. "I know this kind of work will never make me rich, so I want to make enough money to see me through school."

The Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) claims 45% of children from households living below the poverty line are forced out of school to work and supplement their parents' incomes, with children aged between 5 and 17 years the worst at risk.