Education International
Education International

Zimbabwe’s teachers’ unions continue fight against child labour despite political set-back

published 16 December 2014 updated 18 December 2014

As Zimbabwe continues to come to terms with July’s election results that saw President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party take control of parliament, many are looking to earlier social progress to find a positive way forward.

The country’s summer elections not only brought an end to the coalition in power between the political parties ZANU-PF and the MDC, but they marked the resurgence of long-time President Robert Mugabe and the beginning of a difficult period of adjustment for many Zimbabweans.

Despite what many are viewing as a setback, the country did show signs of recovery during the five-year power-sharing government. However, issues related to social and human rights still remain as major challenges for the new government, including child Labour and social dialogue.

Education International (EI) is at the heart of the fight against child labour all over the world, giving special attention to those countries where the levels of drop-outs and child enforcing labour are high. In light of the promotion and implementation of more effective programmes targeting child labour, EI visited Zimbabwe to plan with two of its Zimbabwean members, ZIMTA and PTUZ, and help reinforcement the fight.

In 2014, EI signed a global agreement with the Dutch-based humanitarian NGO Hivos to fight against child labour by introducing the teachers’ perspective, and Zimbabwe is among the countries included within the programme.

For years, both PTUZ and ZIMTA have fought on the front-line against child labour and for children’s’ rights, which make the two unions a natural fit as active members within the programme that EI and Hivos are launching in Zimbabwe.

The programme’s concept is based on the creation and promotion of “free child labour zones” to be established in areas where child labour has become endemic, such as agricultural or mineral-extraction zones.

Human Rights are Children’s Rights

For last week’s annual Human Rights Day, Zimbabwe focused on its fight against all forms of child labour. One of the main events of the day, held in Chiredzi, in the country’s south-west, where the Coalition Against Child Labour of Zimbabwe(CACLAZ), together with PTUZ, the agricultural trade union GAPWUZ, and the African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN) have successfully established a sustainable, and free of any form of child labour zone, or what is also known as a CLFZ.

For the next two years the new zone will be based in Tanganda, where tea plantations regularly use children as their labour force. To make the zones work, teacher unions, especially those as powerful and representative as ZIMTA and PTUZ, play a key role in the retention of children at school, and also educating parents and other authorities.

Studies make it clear that child labour, aside from denying the basic rights of children, does nothing to eliminate poverty. Only Education does.