A community of local boys and youth, age 12-25 seated at the banks of the Kineti River in Torit, South Sudan waiting for a customer for their “car wash” business. They forgo their schooling to gain a living at 300SSPs per car.
As the world turns its eye to the issue of child labour on the World Day Against Child Labour, the problem could not be more pertinent to the peace process and development of South Sudan.
According to UNICEF, there is an estimated 150 million children engaged in child labour. While no concrete figures are available for South Sudan, the issue of child labour remains widespread as many children are opting to undertake various forms of labour, for low wages, in place of going to school.
This is evident in Torit, where a group of 55 boys and youth between the ages of 12 and 25 spend their days on the banks of Kinate River washing cars.
They charge around 300SSP (approx. USD 2) per car wash, which they split between themselves, leaving very little for each child. Some days only several cars come by. On a good day, the group can expect to wash a maximum of 15 cars for a total of 4,500SSP. Split between every boy in the group, that amounts to 81 SSPs per person, the price for a bottle of soda.
These children are deprived of their childhood as they forgo their education – a crucial element to their personal development and their future – for very little economic return.
Vallary Kaikai, a Deputy Headmaster at a local school in Torit said that this is not an isolated case, it is happening in and around Torit. Sudan. He said that there is an increasing trend of children skipping school for work across South Sudan.
“The issue of children leaving school to work odd jobs is becoming rampant because children have nowhere to go. The economic situation is forcing them to go and do work that they are not supposed to be doing. Even if they have been in school they are forced to leave,” said Kaikai.
This trend is of serious concern as it shapes the future of South Sudan.
“The country will go flat if the young generation does not receive their education. That is why there is a great need for these children to be educated so that there is a chain of responsibility. If these children are left uneducated, then there will be a big gap, resulting in a torn country.”
Kaikai hopes that the growing trend of child labour can be turned around as he highlighted the importance of education for the future of the children and the overall development of South Sudan.
“Education is the key to the peace process. For a child to progress, education plays a key role,” said Kaikai.