Guyana’s workforce no place for children – CCPA Director

World Day Against Child Labour

By Rennella Bourne

As Guyana joins with the rest of the world to observe World Day Against Child Labour today, Director of the Child Care and Protection Agency Anne Greene says the workforce in Guyana has no place for children.

Traversing the streets of Georgetown, children can be seen selling water, plantain chips, chicken foot, fruits and several other small items.

A 10-year-old boy was observed selling plantain chips in the heart of the city and at the seawall many nights, way past normal bedtime for children. While on the seawall the boy would usually walk back and forth in the vicinity of the Band Stand shouting “plantain chip for sell! Plantain chip for sell!” Despite this child is not being taken to the seawall with parents and being catered to like the children he is selling to, he has never acted shy or unconfident of what he is doing.

Speaking with Guyana Times the child disclosed that his mother would make the plantain chips while he and his other siblings are at school. Standing confidently as he spoke with this newspaper, the child said when he and his siblings return home from school, he being the eldest, he would have to head to the streets to secure an income for his single-parent family.

The boy is a brilliant child whom one can never confuse with his sales money. Many times the child is seen traversing the seawall until his basket is empty.

This is routine for this child. His basket seems to be larger on weekends and he said he gets to go home earlier on the weekends since people are quicker to buy his plantain chips.

This publication observed that a man, who seemed very dissatisfied with the work the child was doing on the seawall, called the child and asked him how many plantain chips he had remaining, to which the child responded 13. The man then took out $1300 from his wallet, paid the child, and sent him home immediately.

The emotional child could not have stopped thanking the man for his kind deed: “Thank you uncle, thank you so much, good night.” The child then went his way.

In an interview with Guyana Times, CCPA’s Director Green was dismissive of such actions by parents of sending their children to help make ends meet at their homes.

“Let the parents themselves come out and sell, children should be at home preparing for school the next day, not selling things on the road. These parents have to be careful, a lot of parents that are vendors say that these children are only helping out and it is better to keep them close to them after school rather than to have them go astray at home,” added Greene.

There is a compulsory age for education and as such any child working under the age of 15 is in violation of the legislation, Greene noted.

Additionally she said: “We know that poverty plays a major role in child labour but you cannot send out children to work at the expense of their education. We are currently working to address the issue of poverty in homes because it is horrible to have our children working when they should be at school.”

Recently, a 16-year-old student who is just a year above the Protection of Children Act law was shot during a failed robbery at a Chinese Restaurant and is still hospitalised and awaiting surgery to have the bullet lodged in her throat removed.

Onika Luke of Vryheid’s Lust, East Coast Demerara, worked part-time at the Chinese Restaurant after school to gain resources for her development.

Greene commenting on the matter noted that this is an unfortunate incident that the teen had to endure: “I am really sorry that she had to work in that environment which is vulnerable to such activities, however she is of age that can do a little work. Any 16-year-old can enter the work force to some extent and provide for themselves.”