Children Engage in Hard Labour to Eke Out Living
September 13, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai
Children residing in Brama, Makoloh, Konta Lane, among other villages in Port Loko District, are actively involved in the arduous task of repairing the alternative road to the controversial toll road following the apparent failure of the government to recruit able bodied men to mend the road.
The children, who are seen on daily basis clearing and filling numerous potholes on the alternative road in order to ease vehicular movement, told Concord Times that they are forced to do so in order to raise money for their schooling.
“Our role on the alternative is simple; we fill the potholes with stones and clear the mud on the road. The drivers in turn give us a token for the service we are providing,” one of them explained to this medium.
Only ten out of the sixty-two kilometers toll road project has been reconstructed by the China Railway Seventh Group (CRSG). The entire 62 kilometers project costs a staggering US$161m. Already, toll charges have been imposed on motorists and after several calls by civil society organisations, an alternative route was announced. But the said alternative is horrible to an extent that vehicles struggle to navigate through the muddy road in a bid to avoid paying the toll charges.
During a fact-finding mission embarked on by this medium in order to know the condition of the alternative road, an aggrieved driver of a heavy duty truck, Santigie Bangura, dilated on the deplorable state of the alternative road, thus commending effort of the children for making it passable.
“Imagine this truck is loaded with cement from Freetown to Makeni. The owner of the cement pays me two million Leones while I pay the vehicle owner one million Leones. I have to buy fuel and pay one million and ninety-eight thousand Leones to and from Freetown, using the toll gates, what have I worked for?” he questioned, saying that even though the alternative road is very deplorable, they have no option but to use it.
Another driver, Sorie Turay, urged that the government review the payment of the toll fees.
“That amount that we are paying to-and-from Freetown using the toll gates is too much. We are not realising much money as drivers if we use it. The police checkpoint at Mile 38 has been removed but there are other police interception points along the highway where we spend some amount of money. The burden is too much on us,” he claimed.
However, Abdul Karim Conteh, Head of Child Labour and International Labour Standards Unit in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, said such activity falls under hazardous jobs for children under the age of 18, noting that it is detrimental to their safety and health.
He said child labour is on the increase in Sierra Leone especially in Freetown.
“The hazardous jobs prohibited to children under the age of 18 in Sierra Leone include stone-breaking and quarrying, working under harsh weather condition, work involving the use of heavy/dangerous machinery, underground mining, street trading, chemical industries, some work in the agriculture sector, cart pushing and pulling, children below the age of 18 should not serve as apprentice for vehicles below,” he stated.
He cited livelihood support programmes for vulnerable parents and children, affordable education schemes for children whose parents are poor as possible solutions to child labour.