School children are flooding the streets of Huye and Nyanza districts as they give up their studies to hawk mostly milk in Nyanza and fruits in Huye.
A recent survey conducted by the National Commission for Children shows that 13.4 per cent of children across the country between the ages of six to 17 were involved in labour, out of which three per cent were involved in hard labour, while 2.1 per cent were involved in hazardous work.
A Primary Six dropout said he quit school because of making quick money from selling milk on buses.
“I make at least Rwf3,000 from selling milk. It is better than going to school and returning to an empty stomach because there is no food at home,” he said.
Another former student in Huye said his parents supported him when he decided to quit school to become a hawker. “My parents gave me capital of Rwf7,000 to buy yellow bananas from farmers to sell at the market,” he said, adding, “At first, I would attend school and sell my bananas at the market. Finally, I decided to concentrate on this business because I started making a profit of Rwf2,000 a day.”
In Huye, street vendors sell fruits to the busy retail shops surrounding the University of Rwanda and other shops and restaurants in the town.
“I buy one ripe banana from farmers for between Rwf25 to Rwf30 and sell it at the market for between Rwf40 to Rwf50. On a good day I can make a profit of Rwf3,500,” said the student from Huye.
Patrick Sindikubwabo, a street vendor in Huye, said they find it difficult to chase away schoolchildren who are hawking because their parents support them and push them to the trade.
“We are not too concerned about children dropping out of school to join this business because we did the same. Also, it’s mostly their parents who enable them to drop out,” he said.
Mr Sindikubwabo, who dropped outlabourof school in Primary Four, said he has been able to buy three cows and four goats through hawking.
“There’s quick money when you’re a hard worker. I started hawking when I was only 14 years old, but I have been able to support my family and build a house worth Rwf1 million,” he said.
However, Mr Sindikubwabo said hawking also poses several hazards.
Recently, two children sustained serious injuries from a car accident while fighting to sell their goods on buses.
“The rate at which children are dropping out of school is alarming and nothing is being done to curb the vice,” said James Rurangwa, a resident of Huye.
He added that parents have also failed in their responsibilities, which results in children having to take care of themselves.
Kankesha Annonciata, the Huye District Vice Mayor of Social Affairs said hawking is robbing children of a better future.
“We strongly condemn this, but we have realised that this isn’t a small problem and we are working on a solution,” said Ms Annonciata.
She said they are putting measures in place at the cell level where the local leaders will be tasked with keeping track of all school-going children and ensure regular supervision in schools.
“If a child is found away from school the parents will be fined Rwf2,000 per day,” she said. Ms Annonciata said the measures will require combined efforts with district authorities and local communities.
Rwanda Today carried out a mini survey on January 14 and found that at least 70 pupils had dropped out of school to work as hawkers in the city or in mining sites.