The rate at which pupils are dropping out of school in favour of tobacco growing has raised eye brows among authorities in Masindi and Kiryandongo districts.
A report released by Community Driven Network (CODNET) Uganda- a non-government organisation reveals that a survey conducted in five sub-counties in the two districts indicates that both boys and girls have been affected.
Presenting the report at Kabalega Resort Hotel in Masindi Town on Wednesday, CODNET programme officer, Mary Alituha said that the survey conducted between June and July 2019 indicates that 58.7 per cent of pupils have dropped out of school and employed in tobacco growing.
The survey was conducted in Budongo, Bwijanga, and Pakanyi sub-counties and Kigumba and Kiryandongo sub-counties in Masindi and Kiryandongo districts respectively.
Alituha said 8.6 per cent of pupils in the two districts are hired by different employers to do some tobacco related work while 59.3 per cent of children work to supplement on their family income.
“According to the study, children are involved in intensive labour in tobacco growing families. The children are involved in such activities as bush clearing and nursery bed preparation. These children are employed because they are seen as offering cheap labour.”
“Once the children especially girls drop out of school, their chances of going back for studies narrow to untold levels”, Alituha reported.
The report also indicates that 17.5 per cent of school going children temporarily stopped going to school at the peak of tobacco activities while 36.4 per cent of them worked to pay school fees for themselves as 21 per cent worked to buy daily basic needs.
Alituha said the research was conducted among 342 respondents with 54.7 per cent from Masindi while 45.3 per cent were from Kiryandongo.
The report targeted children between five to 18 years. Most of the children approached during the survey were found suffering from backache and headache while others had itching skin and scars on their bodies.
The survey aimed at identifying the major forms of child labour in tobacco growing areas and also suggesting ways of addressing them to save children from being exploited and denied education as enshrined in the constitution of Uganda.
Speaking at the dissemination of the report, the Masindi deputy District Education Officer, Adolf Kato said rice and maize growing is also another obstacle to the children’s education.
He called for action against parents who discontinue their children from attaining education in favour of guarding crop gardens against vermin incursion.
“Some parents have discontinued their children from going to school to help them scare away baboons and birds from destroying their maize and rice crops”.
Cosmas Byaruhanga, the Masindi district LC 5 chairman condemned parents perpetuating and abetting child labour instead of sending their children to school.
“Some men have failed to do their responsibility at home resulting in child labour. Men should stop ending at siring children, but should continue to fend for them until they clock the constitutional age of eighteen years and become self-reliant”, said Byaruhanga.