Opinion

Ban employment of children in the public transport sector

By: Isaac Kawai Steve

Recently, a Member of Parliament (MP) complained about the high number of street children in the streets of Juba. In the same breadth, the President while addressing the August House during the opening of the Parliamentary session, admitted that his government has not embarked on any developmental agenda since the war broke out in 2013.

All those utterances point to a focus on war and neglect of both infrastructural and social development agenda. However, with the signing and albeit slow implementation of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, the current and the would-be government needs to among other things and with utmost urgency address the plights of children.

Those of us who board Public Service Vehicles (PSV) must have realized that there are school going age children who work as touts in Juba.

While I acknowledge that South Sudan has been in armed conflict for more than five years, occurrence of such situation doesn’t bring about suspension of rights, more so the rights of the children. Article 21 (4) of the Interim Constitution of Southern Sudan (ICSS) defines a child as any person who is under the age of eighteen (18) years.

The aforementioned Article provides for a wide range rights of the South Sudanese child.

Additionally, the Country has a comprehensive statutory law; Child Act, No. 10 of 2008 which from its preamble provides thus, ‘the purpose of this Act is to extend, promote and protect the rights of children in Southern Sudan, in accordance with provisions of Article 21 of the Interim Constitution of Southern Sudan, 2005, and as defined in the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international instruments, protocols, standards and rules on the protection and welfare of children to which Sudan, and now South Sudan (the emphasis is mine) is a signatory.’

South Sudan is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (1990) and many other protocols and regulations. She is therefore legally obligated to promote, protect and respect the rights of the child as expected of her.

Article 21 (1) (d) of the ICSS provides that a child should ‘not be subjected to exploitative practices or abuse, nor to be required to serve in the army nor permitted to perform work which may be hazardous or harmful to his or her education, health or well-being’

Allowing children to work as touts is very harmful to their education, health and general wellbeing.

The relevant government ministry needs to ban the employment of children in the transport sector and other sectors which derail their development. This would be for the benefit of the children and the nation at large in the long term. The time they use to go round the city to collect and drop passengers would instead be spent in class and doing other things which are in light with a healthy development of a child.

To realize this, the government needs to not only ban the employment of children in the sectors which impairs their growth but also needs to embark on building more schools and classrooms and increase the budget allocation to the ministry of education.

The huge presence of street children in Juba should be a wakeup call to the government that all is not well in as far as fulfilling its constitutional mandate under Article 21 and as provided by Child Act, 2008 and the international legal instruments is concerned. There is an enormous and urgent need for the government to channel part of the national resources towards this end.

Needless to mention, the future of every nation depends on its young people. It is high time therefore for South Sudan to spend a portion of her resources in harnessing the potential of its young people, especially now that we are transitioning to a peaceful time.

The Writer is an advocate. He can be reached via email: kawaisteve@yahoo.com or Tel: 0928514167

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