This year’s national celebrations to mark the Day of the African Child take place in Kwale on Saturday against the backdrop of rampant child abuse and neglect in the Coastal County.
Cases of child labour and sexual exploitation including defilement and early marriages continued to be a matter of great concern in the county, according to children welfare officials.
Incidents of unscrupulous parents colluding with sex pests to abuse children for money have also been reported in the region.
This has led to child prostitution abetted by some parents who work in cahoots with wealthy tourists and molesters who pay them for the services.
The miserable plight of children in the county is expected to dominate the celebrations which will be officiated by the Labour and Social Protection Cabinet Secretary, Ukur Yattani at Menzamwenye Secondary School grounds, in Lunga Lunga Sub-county.
Lack of a Labour Office in the County hampers the fight against rising cases of child labour, Actions of Justice Organization has said.
The organization is campaigning to raise awareness on children’s rights in the region.
“Opening of the office is long overdue and should be addressed as a matter of urgency,” the agency’s Chairman, Juma Bora said, noting that labour cases in the County were handled by the Mombasa office.
He said many children in the area were engaged in casual labour as herders, domestic workers and hawkers which must stop.
According to Mr. Bora, child abuse has adversely affected education in the County and should be addressed as a matter of urgency.
In one instance, 17 children aged between six and 17 years were arrested while hawking charcoal in Kwale town in an on-going crackdown on child labour involving the children’s department and police.
Bora said the organization is sensitizing parents on the need to protect their children against any form of abuse.
However, he noted that though poverty was partly to blame, it should not be used as an excuse for engaging children in cheap labour since it violated their rights.
He further said his organization had rescued 32 children who had dropped out of school due to early pregnancies and lack of fees.
The chairman mentioned Viungujini and Mwangulu primary schools as some of the most affected having recorded a total of 32 dropouts last year.
The County Director of Children Services, Stephen Gitau warns that negligent parents would be prosecuted, adding that children’s rights have to be protected.
“We will not be arresting children, but their negligent parents who send them out to engage in activities that violate their rights besides putting their delicate lives at risk,” he said.
Gitau said some children left home as early as 3am to go hawking goods like charcoal among others.
He said by denying children their right to education, parents were contravening the Children’s Act and those caught doing so would be dealt with in accordance with the law.
By James Muchai