Pictured: Catherine’s grandmother making one pot of porridge that will be shared among 13 of her grandchildren.
Over the past year, we have seen a significant rise in the number of children, aged 5 to 11 years old, who have become trapped in child labor. Every day, children, like Catherine, are at risk of entering the workforce before they’ve even had a chance to have a childhood.
Eleven-year-old Catherine lives in the shantytown in Kabulonga. Catherine’s grandmother has made a home for her and 13 other children in her one-room house. Her grandmother works daily, crushing stones to earn a small living. Even with her income, there is not enough money to feed all of the children in her care, let alone pay for their school fees, so they all remain out of school. In their desperation, sending her grandchildren to work was the only option for survival. Families like Catherine’s are being forced to make heart-breaking choices – either pay for school and go hungry or go to work and survive to see another day.
(Pictured: The one-room home that Catherine (fourth from the front) and her family share.)
The economic impact of COVID-19 has made it even more difficult for adults to find decent work. Families are being forced to send their children to work and help generate family income. Child labor compromises a child’s education, restricting their rights and limiting their future opportunities, leading to a vicious intergenerational cycle of poverty and child labor.
Desperately hungry, Catherine and her siblings came to African Vision of Hope for a free lunch as part of our Feeding Program. Child Protection Officers heard about their heartbreaking situation and stepped in to save Catherine from a life of child labor.
“They listened to my story and helped enroll me in school. Now, not only do I receive a hot meal every day, I’ve been given a uniform, school bag, books, school supplies, and now have a place in a classroom. This school is a blessing every day. When we come to school we pray before class, and our teacher loves us. This school gives me happiness. When I finish school I want to be a nurse, to help my family and the people of Zambia.” – Catherine (center)
A child’s education should not become an option in the midst of economic hardships. We must break the cycle of poverty and child labor. We must remove children out of the workforce and back into school and help families avoid making this choice in the first place.
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