Dozens of child street vendors have defied a directive by the Masaka city council to vacate the streets and return to school. The minors, majorly boys as young as 11-year-old, are still vending different items despite a pronouncement by the City authorities to force them back into school.
The children are seen selling apples, mangoes, cassava, bananas, vegetables, maize, and other items like facemasks. In January, the Masaka City Education office and probation officer issued a one-week ultimatum to all child vendors to vacate the streets and return to class following the reopening of school on January 10th, 2022.
Godfrey Kalema, one of the child vendors, says that they do not have money for school fees and other requirements, which has forced them to remain on the street. He says that the prolonged lockdown triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic took a huge toll on their parents financially that they cannot provide the necessary school requirements despite their desire to return to school.
Kalema says that although the City authorities are hunting them down, they have learnt tactics of dodging the enforcement officers who come to arrest them. Andrew Ssekimpi, another minor who sells Mangoes and sugarcanes on Elgin Street, says that they will return to school next term after getting some money to cater for the requirements.
According to Ssekimpi, some of them come from rural areas in the neighbouring districts and work for businesspersons who pay them daily depending on their sales.
Many other school children join the child vendors in the evening to sell merchandise. Some of these children carry on with the trade up to late in the night before they return to their homes.
Steven Kakeeto the Masaka City Education Officer, says they intend to begin arresting the parents of the minors and charge them with negligence and promoting child labour contrary to child protection laws.
He says that they have contacted the Police to back the law enforcement team to evict the children from the streets.
Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi, the Masaka Deputy Resident City Commissioner, says that they are also concerned about the children who are still on the streets, saying that they intend to arrest and prosecute those who hire them to vend merchandise.