Kenya, child labour and the economic crisis

Kenyan children are out of school due to the economic crisis. But the situation is further compounded by food crisis, drought, high cost of food commodities and high fuel prices. And yet, no new measures have been announced by the government on direct intervention on child labour. An interview with Bernard Kiura, ILO National Coordinator in Kenya.

Is there any information indicating that in your country the economic crisis is having a negative impact on the numbers of children attending school?  If so, what is the evidence? 

 There is hardly any information to show that there are children out of school due to the economic crisis. However in March 2009 the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education was reported in the media to have said that capitation grants (FPE grants) for the first term of 2009 academic year had not been released. That was two months into the new term. He further explained that the government had diverted money meant for education projects, thereby stalling most of them. It was not clear how much money had been diverted.

Kenyan situation in the context of economic crisis is further compounded by food crisis due to drought, high cost of food commodities and high fuel prices that has contributed to average monthly inflation rate of 28-30% for the better part of year 2009. Most of the reported cases on children dropping out of school are attributed to food shortage more than global economic crisis. Many families are facing food shortage due to the inflation and (not economic crisis related) drought. WFP (World food program) has announced they will cut the number of children targeted for school feeding from 1.2 million in the last country programme (that ended in Dec 2008) to 750,000 children in the next five years country programme. This in the face of high inflation and high cost of food commodities will push many more children into child labour

Kenya has been a recipient of the FTI grants for the last three years. Fast-Track Initiative is a World Bank global partnership to help low-income countries meet the education Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that all children complete a full cycle of primary education by 2015. FTI grant commitment to Kenya ended in 2009. In 2007 FTI, World Bank and DfiD (Department for International Development) contribution to the education budget was USD 100M. This came down to 70M in 2008. In 2009 there was no FTI grant, thereby leaving World Bank and DfiD contribution to USD 44M only. The Ministry of Education is therefore short of USD 56M compared to 2007. However the point is lack of FTI grant is not due to economic crisis but expiry of three year FTI grant period. The effect of this gap is yet to be felt. The Ministry of Education is currently working on a renewal request.  

Has the government announced any new measures to help keep children in school?  Please explain the new measures.

For Kenya it would be appropriate to refer to expansion of measures already in place as opposed to new measures. For instance the government made a modest increase in education programmes budgetary allocation in the 2009/2010 budget. This is meant to sustain the FPE programme and subsidized secondary education. More funds will be used for programmes such as Most Vulnerable Children Grants (MVCG), support to early childhood education programmes, Home Grown School Feeding Initiative, Bursary, school infrastructural development. Significant amount of the money in the budget is allocated to devolved funds, mainly in the Constituency Development Fund (CDF). It is therefore anticipated that if spent as per plans, there would be influence on school access and retention. The government has also proposed to hire 10,000 teachers on contract as a short term teacher shortage in primary and secondary schools. The Kenya National Union of Teachers estimates that Kenya has a shortage of 60,000 teachers. The government estimates shortage of 30,000 teachers.

The government has expanded funding on Cash Transfer Grants to an annual budget of Kshs 300M (USD 3.8M). However, the effect of this on education is yet to be ascertained.

Is there any information indicating that the at the country level the economic crisis is having an impact on the number of children in child labour?   If so, what is the evidence

No new evidence on country level economic crisis having impact on number of children in child labour. However there is fear that the real impact of the economic crisis is soon going to be felt in Kenya. A survey done by the Federation of Kenya Employers in March 2009 shows that 45% of companies sampled (484 companies with a workforce of 121,000 employees) had frozen employment of new staff as a direct result of the global crisis. The report further reveals that seven percent of the companies sampled have shut down as a result of the crunch with 29 percent announcing a reduction in physical capital growth. Earnings from tourism (lead foreign exchange earner in 2007) fell by 37% in 2008. These are expected to fall by between 20-30% by the end of 2009.

Other companies affected by strained business include the apparel industry where 28 out of 50 companies have closed, resulting in estimated job loss of 23-28,000 workers. Pan Paper Company closed shedding all 2,000 workers and indirectly affecting the wellbeing of over 50,000 residents of Webuye Town (in Western Province where the company is located). The Webuye Town Council will lose Kshs 1.6M (USD 20,512) per year in revenue collection from the factory. Zain (mobile company0 shed of 141 workers in March, Haco Industries shed off 15% of the company staff.

These trends are going to have a negative effect on family income and, subsequently the campaign against child labour. Majority of the people losing jobs are often the low income earners who remain vulnerable due to lack of savings and alternative sources of income

Has the government announced any new measures to prevent child labour? 

No new measures announced by the government on direct intervention on child labour. For instance, the Ministry of Labour’s Child Labour Division was not allocated resources in the next fiscal budget. However cognizance must be taken of other well funded interventions that have a positive bearing on prevention and elimination of child labour, e.g. education budget, cash transfer grants and the youth enterprise fund among others.

 Fauziya Abdi Ali, ILO Information and Communication Officer, contributed to this interview


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