The unions of Zimbabwe unite against child labour

published 11 June 2017 updated 7 July 2021

In Zimbabwe, the PTUZ (Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe) and ZIMTA (Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association) unions have been involved in the Out of Work Into School project since 2015.

The project aims to develop a child labour free zone in the 8th arrondissement of the Chipinge district (province of Manicaland, near Mozambique) and to raise awareness about the importance of schooling throughout the district. The projects first steps came up against a hostile context in the region of Chipinge, known for its tea plantations. One of the industry's largest companies, Tanganda, had been using the Earn & Learn system for several decades: in exchange for their work in the tea plantations, the children could receive schooling in schools belonging to Tanganda! In 2013, the denunciations by NGOs and the media forced the company to terminate the system, but nothing was implemented to enable the children to continue their schooling. Unable to pay their school fees, a great many former child workers left school at the same time that they stopped working in the plantations. This created a clear feeling of resentment among the population regarding outside interventions.

The partners of "Team Zimbabwe" had to be patient and use diplomacy to begin their activities in the field. ZIMTA and PTUZ provided training on the concept of child labour to 96 of the region's teachers. ZIMTA developed artistic activities within nine schools for the purpose of disseminating the message "no to child labour". At the Aventure secondary school, for instance, the teachers used the theatre and dance troupe to create sketches aimed at raising awareness with regard to the importance of education. In the Rattleshoek primary school, an art teacher wrote a poem aimed at raising awareness with regard to child labour, and his students learned to recite it. At New Years’ Gift primary school, Haandidi Masiya gathered the students in a short skit in which they ask their relatives to observe their rights. "Small improvements contribute to give children the desire to go to school, said John Kasambira, Principal of the Zona secondary school. Before this project started, our school's music group only started its activities in the third quarter, before an annual competition that brings together all of the region's schools. It now begins its activities at the start of the school year, which has made the school more attractive".

"Until 2013, denouncing child labour was taboo"

The PTUZ conducted awareness-raising sessions about the dangers of child labour in five schools in Chipinge. The project's national coordinator gathered the students and teachers to facilitate discussions and writing workshops. "The sessions are crucial for changing

children's attitudes, explained Joseph Machuwaire, Principal of the Aventure secondary school. Until 2013, the message was that children must work in order to have the opportunity to get schooling; this was the system that everyone was used to. Denouncing child labour was taboo. This way of thinking does not disappear from one day to the next". Attitudes are gradually changing. "After the awareness-raising sessions, the children speak to their parents about what they learned. Some parents came to see us to discuss the matter further", said David Binda, Deputy Principal of the school. This fosters reflection on education in certain communities, starting with short awareness-raising sessions conducted in a few schools.

The PTUZ and the ZIMTA have received support from the Committee for the Protection of Children. Such committees exist in each arrondissement pursuant to a government policy; they have representatives in schools, among the teachers and the students. They have a role to play in raising awareness with regard to children's rights and reporting abuse. The Committee for the Protection of Children of the district of Chipinge, a governmental authority, partnered with the ZIMTA and the PTUZ in several of the project's activities, the teacher training component in particular. Little by little, Team Zimbabwe also attracted support from the Zimbabwe Tea Producers' Association and companies such as Tanganda and Ariston Holdings, who openly speak out against child labour.

Enrolment figures on the rise

Enrolment figures in the schools targeted by the project have increased over the past two years. "When the Earn & Learn system was abolished in 2013, the number of students fell to 400. Barely one year after the launch of the Out of Work Into School project, that number increased to 498", said Khosa Cames, Principal of the Rattleshoek secondary school. "The number of students in our school increased from 536 to 575 in the space of two years, thanks to the awareness-raising activities conducted in the framework of this project. The parents in our community are now aware of the negative impact of child labour on education", said Happy Matikiti, Principal of the Zona primary school. Between 2017 and 2018, the registrations of children to schools have grown by 6.2% in the participating schools.

The PTUZ worked with the CACLAZ towards creating a bridging school for children returning to school after a long absence. Between late 2015 and April 2017, some 92 ex-child labourers attended the bridge school and followed educational rehabilitation courses enabling them to register for regular classes. The PTUZ trained 23 teachers to apply this method of accelerated learning, based on its experience in other projects aimed at developing areas free of child labour.

The ZIMTA has developed a manual on children's rights for teachers. Each partner of the Team Zimbabwe coalition contributed to drafting the document. This is the first time that the ZIMTA has been involved in a project aimed at combating child labour. The teachers' union was enthusiastic about participating in the project, so much so that its annual conference of 2016 adopted a resolution whereby the ZIMTA would develop conceptual frameworks on the

per-zone approach to combating child labour, and calling for the government to support teachers working in bridging schools.

Good collaboration between the PTUZ and the ZIMTA

Through this project, the ZIMTA and PTUZ unions have developed a mutually beneficial collaboration in spite of their historic differences. Angelina Lunga and Hillary Yuba, project coordinators for the ZIMTA and the PTUZ respectively, have worked towards communicating effectively and seeking convergences between each union's activities in the schools of Chipinge. Following the participation of both coordinators in a course on child labour in the agricultural industry organised by the ILO's International Training Centre in Turin, the Chipinge project has grown: the ZIMTA has trained 34 teachers in the use of new information technologies in order to enable them to follow an online course on child labour developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).