If there is one thing I hate terribly is to see children suffering. There is a lot of suffering in Africa because of poverty; one amazing thing is that the poor give birth more than other people. And the children of the poor are likely to be poorer as chances of taking them to good schools and providing them with the basics of life are reduced drastically.
Having many children with no proper income results to a lot of suffering, even when contraceptives were free in health centers in Kenya (I don’t know if they are still free now) you will still find that the poor women in urban centers and rural areas don’t bother to access the family planning services. Some say their husbands don’t want then to use contraceptives, some are restricted by their religious beliefs and some just don’t bother.
As a result the poor give birth to many children whom they cannot provide for adequately. With the very little income they earn through casual labor in the industries or farms in the rural area, it is very difficult to improve their living conditions. Living conditions for the poor in rural areas is even worse compared to urban centers. I have seen men in rural areas who just as their women work in farms to get food for the family but some do not work.
When the rural woman gives birth to another child, she is weakened and may is not be in a position to work for a few months. On the other hand the man may not be bothered, he would just go to the shopping center to idle and listen to news (especially now during campaigns) from a shopkeepers radios because he doesn’t own one. He just doesn’t care what happens at home and what the family will eat.
This leaves the woman with no option but to send older kids to work in other people’s farms to earn some living. With free education now at least the kids can go to school, but when they have to work to earn a living for the family, they would have to stop going to school.
Child labor is very common in Africa and Kenya even when the government introduced free primary education. Some parents still send their kids to school but in the evening, they are sent to work for people or sell foodstuff like groundnuts, at a time they are supposed to do their homework. The result of all these is that children perform poorly in school; most of them drop out of school or fail to join Secondary school because of poor marks. Then the cycle of poverty repeats itself many times in the lives of the poor.
I see so many children, some as young as 10 years old selling vegetables and ground nuts in Nairobi city center and its outskirts. A good example is kids waiting for shoppers leaving supermarkets and begs them to buy their vegetables tied in polythene bags. These children normally sell as late as 8 pm in the night. Some are in tattered clothes and get affected by the cold and dust. Children are also used as beggars by their parents or guardian; Child trafficking is also a big problem in Africa. It is child labor and abuse in all forms.
International bodies NGOs and governments have been fighting child labor and abuse for a long time, but still a lot has to be done. This is why there are street children, children who ran away from abuse by parents or beg to take some money home to feed the family.
It is not easy to stop people from giving birth to children they cannot take care of or force women to take contraceptives. However I believe a government can come with laws to protect such children from suffering. A friend from Kenya in the US told me it’s a crime to leave young children in the house unattended. Neighbors would report the incident and if it continues the kids will be taken away.
Though it would be sad to loose ones kids just for a small mistake, when one is capable of taking care of them. I think such a law can work well for Kenya and African if the governments set centers to care for such children and prosecute the parents who abuse their children. While the parents are in custody or released they can be counseled on the need to plan their families, need to give a child proper education in order to improve their standards of living.