Child Labour: Pupils haul
rocks to build Sand Dams
By Dan Kituku
A Makueni Community Based Organization may be exploiting school pupils in what seems like child labour by using them in the construction of sand dams along local rivers in mitigation to massive sand loss in the county.
The Utooni CBO mobilizes pupils and students in primary and secondary schools in respective sand dam construction sites to provide labour as part of community participation in return for a sand dam.
Community Participation component in local projects targets resources like cash or labour by the local community where locals volunteer their labour.
But in the case in point, school authorities have allowed pupils to provide the labour even when their parents expect them to be in class.
This reality was drawn to the Utooni CBO Di-rector Engineer Mukusya Silu when A Makueni District Officer send pupils back to class after she found them working in one of the projects.
The Kaiti District Officer Ms Mary Lairumbi ordered pupils and students from local schools to go back to their respective schools, after she found them working at a sand dam construction site at Kaiti River in the division.
The D.O enquired from their teachers who had accompanied them, why they had discontinued classes to engage the children to construction of the sand dam.
Scores of pupils from a few primary schools and students from three secondary schools were accompanied by their teachers in constructing the sand dam when the D.O arrived.. The pupils were charged with a very tedious task of bringing stone blocks nearer to the construction site.
“Parents of these students have paid school fees for them to learn but not construct sand dams.” Said the D.O. “If a child gets injured at this river, how will you explain to their parents?” she won-dered.
Some of the schools working at the site included, Thomeandu boys, Ukia girls, and Kyuasini secondary schools, and also accompanied by Pupils from Ukia, Kyuasini, Itumbule primary school among others.
The construction cost of a single sand dam though not confirmed is estimated to cost over a million shillings with labour included. It is suspected that mobilization of school children was aimed at saving labour costs to the project even when the costs could have been provided for.
Questions are being raised on whether school authorities know that by pro-viding pupils for the project, they may have been committing the pupils to sheer child labour. It is suspected that the schools may have had plans to provide labour and be paid on a prorata basis
Efforts to seek comments and clarification of how the C.B.O undertakes the projects from engineer Mukusya who is the mastermind of the sand dam projects were fruitless as he ordered reporters to leave the site, threatening of a severe punishment to journalists who defied the order.
“You were not invited here and you should leave immediately and your continued stay here will cost you heavily” engineer Mukusya warned a team of reporters from various media houses.
The Utooni CBO, whose offices are situated at Kola market along Wote –Machakos road has been funding numerous sand dam constructions through the CBO, whose value is not known to the beneficiaries.