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Malawi grappling with child labour working on tobacco farms 

By Gloria Nazombe LILONGWE Malawi (Xinhua) -- Jessie Nthala, 15, works at Mandala tobacco farm in Mzimba district, Malawi.

Nthala is among many children toiling on tobacco farms in the south African country.

According to a 2016 national survey, out of 5.6 million children in Malawi, 1.2 million aged 5-17 are engaged in harmful and hazardous child labor.

“I got married at 12 and divorced a year later. Staying again with my mother and my stepdad became tough then,” Nthala said in an interview.

“They later threw me out. I had to find means to support myself and my baby. So I got myself a job in one of the tobacco fields in my district.

Despite efforts to curb child labor, especially in tobacco fields, most farms are populated by children as young as eight.

In Mzimba district, children are employed in the farms throughout the tobacco-growing season.

Chikumbutso Ngwira is a young farmer with a tobacco-growing family background in Mzimba.

As a family, they have a 16-year-old in their tobacco field.

Ngwira defended the practice of employing children, saying it is mainly driven by sympathy as some of the children come from impoverished families.

“For example, we... have a kid who lost his parents and had no place to call home, so we sympathized with him and decided to take him in,” he said.

“It is not true that employing children increases productivity. Most of these children are not fit to do all the necessary work that is required in a tobacco field,” Ngwira said. “Unlike a maize field, a tobacco field is too involving and it needs dedication, fitness and knowledge.”

“A tobacco farmer strives for quality to impress the buyer since quality determines pricing and most of these children don’t know much on tobacco in order to produce quality leaves,” he said.

“So leaving a whole field in their hands is very risky. Therefore, saying that the children bring cheap labor to a farmer is just a lie,” he added.

Eye for the Child is a local organization looking into the welfare of children and their rights, and Max Matewere is the executive director.

“At Eye for a Child, we see to it that no child is abused in any form,” Matewere said, urging “collective effort from the general public.”

He said child trafficking in Malawi carries a punishment of 21 years in jail or even life imprisonment in aggravated offense cases.

“We therefore see to it that any offender is brought to book and where necessary the child is taken care of with proper protocol and measures observed,” Matewere said.

“As for their welfare, all we need is information and we are good to go,” he added.



Malawian delegation in Namibia to learn teacher management

WINDHOEK Namibia (Xinhua) -- A delegation from the Malawi education ministry is in Namibia to consult about best education practices.

The objective of the visit is to learn best practices from Namibia that would be instrumental in the crafting of Malawi’s harmonized teacher management strategy geared towards improved education provision and service delivery at schools, said Ellen Simango, head of delegation and Deputy Director of Basic Education at the Malawian Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.

According to Simango, Malawi faces various challenges and is grappling with education provision, particularly teacher management and recruitment, given that Malawi has no coordinated and harmonized teacher management policies in place.  

Enrolment in primary phase in Malawi increased to 4.9 million and 3.8 million respectively after the implementation of free education in 1994, from 1.3 million before 1994.

“This has also put pressure of the demand for teachers, and thus our learners/teacher ratio in urban areas stands at 78:1 in urban areas and 100: 1 in rural areas,” said Simango.

Malawian Economist, Evance Kazembe, who is also part of the Malawian delegation, added that the policies and regulations in place at the moment vary from place to place, which is making it difficult to address the various challenges the country faces, especially teacher management.

“It has been a challenge to retain teachers especially in rural areas and overall management of teachers as Malawi does not have a harmonized policy in this regard.” Simango said.

Veno Kauaria, acting Permanent Secretary in Namibia’s Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, said that the delegation will also visit schools and key programs.



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