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1. Child Labor in Uganda

In 1998, the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimated that 44.4 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 14 in Uganda were working.1823 According to the 1991 Population Census and the 1992/93 Ugandan Integrated Household Survey, 23 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 14 work in various activities.1824 The Ugandan Government estimates that 3.3 million children between the ages of 10 and 17 were working in 1991.1825 Of these children, 49 percent were girls and 51 percent were boys.1826 In 2000, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), in collaboration with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and technical assistance from the ILO’s International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (ILO-IPEC) conducted a national survey on the demographic and health status of the country. The survey included a child labor module which will provide estimates on the number of working children. UBOS is planning to carry out another national child labor survey in 2002, in consultation with ILO-IPEC and with funding from the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL).1827

Child labor is most prevalent in Uganda’s northern region, pastoral communities, districts devastated by HIV/AIDS, agricultural plantations, mining areas, urban centers and border towns.1828 There are an estimated 1.7 million orphaned children, resulting from civil unrest, internal displacement of persons and HIV/AIDS.1829 An estimated one million children living in Uganda have lost their mother or both parents to AIDS.1830 Orphaned children are likely to become heads of households responsible for caring for younger siblings or live on the streets.

A predominant factor behind child labor is poverty, particularly in rural areas where more than 90 percent of Uganda’s population lives.1831

Children work in both subsistence and commercial farming. Children fetch water over long distances; handle heavy loads; and are exposed to dust, pesticides and herbicides.1832 According to a study conducted by the Federation of Uganda Employers of 115 enterprises involved in tea, coffee, sugar, and tobacco production, children participate in the labor force of almost 80 percent of the employers.1833 In the areas examined by the study, children performed a variety of tasks, including harvesting tea and tobacco (25 percent); picking coffee beans (23 percent); weeding (14 percent); slashing (9 percent); spraying (9 percent); and sorting tobacco (5 percent).1834

The Ugandan Government reports that some of the worst forms of child labor in the country include heavy domestic work; commercial sex and sexual slavery; involvement in military operations; smuggling of merchandise across borders; and the work of children living on the streets.1835 Children working as domestic servants frequently work long hours, are denied food, endure physical and sexual abuse, and are isolated from family and friends.1836

In urban areas, children are employed in garages and metal workshops.1837 Children working in garages and workshops often are exposed to hazardous products such as paint, petroleum, battery acid, and asbestos.1838 Children working on the streets sell small items, beg, wash cars, and scavenge.1839 They are also involved in the commercial sex industry, particularly in Kampala and border towns.1840 Child street workers are exposed to crime and drug abuse. Many suffer from malnutrition and hunger; some sniff fuel to get high.1841 A study conducted in 1993 in 10 districts identified 3,827 street children, 14 percent of whom were living and working on the street full time.1842 In 1999, a study carried out by a national NGO estimated the number of street children in Kampala alone at 5,000, of whom 1,000 live full time on the streets.1843

Although the minimum age to serve in Uganda’s military is 18 years, the National Resistance Army used young children extensively in the 1980s as soldiers.1844 Reports of Uganda’s military recruitment of child soldiers continue, despite the government’s pledge to stop using children in armed conflict.1845 Efforts have been made to introduce former child soldiers to schooling. In February 2001, the Government of Uganda handed over to the United Nations 163 Congolese children, aged 9 to 17, being trained as soldiers by Uganda’s military. These children were to be rehabilitated and returned to their families.1846

Uganda continues to be plagued by armed conflict with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) active in the north, and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) active in limited areas in southwest Uganda.1847 Some estimate that as many as 14,000 children have been abducted by rebel groups.1848 Abducted children are often trafficked into southern Sudan and forced into situations of armed conflict in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda. They are used as human shields or hostages and are sometimes coerced into sexual activity.1849 The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that more than 5,000 children abducted by the LRA since 1987 are still unaccounted for.1850

2. Children’s Participation in School

In 1995, the primary gross attendance rate was 95.8 percent, and the net primary attendance rate was 68.4 percent.1851 Primary school net enrollment ratio has risen in Uganda from 53 percent in 1990 to 87 percent in 1997.1852 In 1997, an estimated 94 percent of children reached grade 5, with similar rates for girls and boys (94.3 percent and 93.5 percent respectively). 1853 The rate of dropouts in Uganda was 6 percent in 1997, while 11 percent of children were repeated a grade in that same year.1854

Under the Universal Primary Education (UPE) program launched in 1997, the Ugandan Government waives school fees for four children per family and provides textbooks for free. Primary school enrollment increased from 2.3 million pupils in 1996 to 6.59 million pupils in 1999.1855 Initially, schools were overwhelmed with some reports claiming hundreds of students per classroom. Government sources report student-teacher ratios at the primary level increased from 38 in 1996 to 64 in 1999.1856 Efforts to construct new school buildings are under way to meet the challenge of keeping pace with enrollment. As of 1999, there are a total of 10,516 primary and 623 secondary schools as of 1999.1857 Efforts to improve the quality of teaching have intensified. While in 1989, only 52 percent of primary school teachers received training, trained instructors account for 72 percent of teachers in 1999.1858

It is noteworthy that the UPE initiative encourages families to grant girls and the disabled child the highest priority in enrollment, as well as orphaned children. Although the percentage of disabled children in Uganda is not known, about 3 percent of pupils enrolled in 1997 were disabled.1859 Some estimate that 158,000 disabled pupils have enrolled under the UPE program.1860

Despite Uganda’s efforts to promote the Universal Primary Education (UPE) program, problems with primary school education persist. Students are forced out of the system through national examinations, and because of limited capacity at the secondary-level.1861 Only 10 percent of the secondary school age population is enrolled in school.1862 There continues to be a wide variation in school enrollment across regions and gender.1863 For example, in a district where cattle herding is prevalent, the increase in enrollment for UPE was only 21 percent, as compared to the national average of over 55 percent.1864 While UPE encourages an equal boy-girl ratio of enrollment, school enrollment of girls still lags behind.1865 Some areas involved in civil unrest suffer from chronic food insecurity and lack essential services; access to education is limited for those populations.1866

3. Child Labor Law and Enforcement

Uganda’s 1995 Constitution (Article 34) defines a child as a person under 16 years of age, and states that children have the right to be protected from social and economic exploitation. The Constitution further states that children should not be employed in work that is “likely to be hazardous,” or work that would otherwise endanger their health, their physical, mental, spiritual, moral, or social development, or that would interfere with their education.1867

The Employment Decree No. 4 of 1975, makes it unlawful to employ a child below 12 years of age, except for light work as prescribed by the Minister of Labor by statutory order. The decree does not allow those less than 16 years from work at night or underground.1868 The Employment Regulation of 1977 prohibits children under 18 from employment in dangerous and hazardous jobs.1869

The Children’s Statute No. 6 of 1996 defines a child as a person below the age of 18 years, and prohibits the employment of children that may be harmful to his or her health, education, mental, physical or moral development.1870 The statute makes it the responsibility of all Local Councils from village to district to safeguard and promote child welfare, and provides for redress.1871 The Local Government Act of 1997 also devolves nearly all central government responsibilities to district and local councils, bringing decision-making on children’s affairs, including education and health, to local communities.1872

Protection of the child from labor and all hazards connected to it falls under the mandate of the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MGLSD), in the Department of Labor Employment and Industrial Relations.1873 Other ministries with responsibilities include the Ministry of Education and Sports, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Local Government, and Ministry of Internal Affairs.1874

Although it is known that the commercial exploitation of children occurs, little available data exist that reflect the extent of the problem. Article 125 of the Penal Code prohibits individuals from soliciting females for prostitution.1875 Violation of this code is punishable by up to seven years imprisonment.1876 Owning or occupying a premise where a girl under age 18 is sexually exploited is a felony, and offenders are subject to five years imprisonment.1877 Under Article 123, any person who attempts unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl under the age 18 is liable to imprisonment for 18 years, and rape of a girl under the age of 18 is an offense punishable by imprisonment with or without a death sentence.1878

The Government of Uganda has ratified the Organization of African Unity Charter on the Rights of the Child (1991). Uganda ratified International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor on June 21, 2001.1879

4. Addressing Child Labor and Promoting Schooling

a. Child Labor Initiatives

In November 1998, the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MGLSD) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the ILO-IPEC. Under this MOU, a National Steering Committee was established in July 1999, and a Child Labor Unit was formed in the MGLSD in August 1999. The Child Labor Unit is responsible for developing policy on child labor and promoting coordination and networking among key stakeholders.1880

In collaboration with ILO-IPEC and with funding from USDOL, Uganda launched a National Program to Eliminate Child Labor in 1999. The program contributes to the progressive elimination of exploitive child labor through prevention, withdrawal, rehabilitation and provision of alternatives to working children. The projects focus on sensitization, advocacy, media awareness, and the formation of district groups aimed at addressing children’s issues.1881 Sectors receiving particular attention include commercial agriculture, construction, and fishing. In the informal sector, rehabilitation services are available to street children, commercial sex workers, domestic workers, and children involved in cross-border smuggling and drug trafficking.1882

Uganda is also one of five countries participating in the ILO-IPEC regional program Combating Child Labor in the Commercial Agricultural Sector, supported by funding from USDOL. The project aims to increase the capacity of all stakeholders to identify and eliminate hazardous child labor on tea and coffee plantations. The project will withdraw and rehabilitate children working in hazardous conditions in commercial agriculture and provide their families with viable alternatives.1883

The Government of Uganda has also sought to address issues related to child labor through its 1997 Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP), which provides a framework for poverty alleviation programs in Uganda.1884 The Government of Uganda also works cooperatively with numerous nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) involved in rehabilitating formerly abducted children, rescuing street children, and combating child labor by providing food, shelter, basic education, vocational training and counseling.1885

b. Educational Alternatives

The Constitution states that a child is entitled to basic education and that will be the responsibility of the State and the parents of the child.1886 Primary education reform began in the 1990s with several initiatives. As part of the Teacher Development and Management System (TDMS), a decentralized outreach tutor program began that includes all government-aided schools in all districts. Based in coordinating centers, outreach tutors visit schools to assist parents, community leaders, teachers, and head teachers in improving practices to benefit pupil learning.1887 The Government of Uganda has also improved the quality of teachers’ guides, textbooks and distribution of materials to schools by implementing a competitive and transparent procurement process.1888

The launch of the Universal Primary Education (UPE) program in January 1997 has stimulated new approaches to primary education, including double-shifting classes each day, allowing twice as many children to attend school, and promoting community-based school management, where parents, teachers, and other members of each school community agree on budget priorities and expenditures based on school individual needs.1889

In collaboration with the government, many international and multinational agencies provide technical and financial support to Uganda’s education reform initiatives and target marginalized or disadvantaged populations. For example, in the nomadic areas of Moroto and Kotido, the Alternative Basic Education for Karamoja (ABEK) program brings literacy programs, taught by instructors from the community, into the homes of children not attending formal school.1890 The program reached over 9,200 children in 1999, of which 67 percent were girls.1891

Another program is the Complementary Opportunities for Primary Education (COPE) initiative for children aged 10-16 years that have never attended school or dropped out before acquiring basic literacy and numeracy skills.1892 A practical curriculum and shorter instruction time of three to four hours a day allows children to combine schooling with other demands on their time. The program reaches over 3,600 children in four districts.1893

To cover the cost of the UPE program and the broad range of education reforms implemented within the five-year Education Sector Investment Plan (1997-2003), public expenditure on education has increased substantially. Between 1995 and 1996, primary education was allocated 49 percent of the total public expenditure on education.1894 That percentage increased to 66 in 1997 and to 62 percent in 1998.1895 Expenditures per pupil as a percentage of Uganda’s gross national product (GNP) per capita increased from 6.94 percent in 1994 to 7.96 percent in 1997 and then reduced to 6.94 percent in 1999.1896 The reason for this decrease is that despite increases in public expenditure on primary education, enrollments increased over the same period and therefore proportionately, per pupil expenditure has not significantly increased.1897

Donor contributions to primary education for the 1998/99 school year were approximately US$47 million, about the same amount as the Ugandan Government’s contribution.1898 Uganda was the first country to be declared eligible to benefit from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund’s debt initiative for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) and uses relief to pay for education reform. Total debt-service under the HIPC initiative relief will yield approximately US$2 billion.1899

Spending by the Ugandan Government on education as a percentage of GNP was 2.2 percent in 1995.1900 Public spending dedicated to primary education as a percentage of GNP was approximately 2 percent in financial year 1999/2000.1901

5. Selected Data on Government Expenditures

The following bar chart presents selected government expenditures expressed as a percentage of GNP. The chart considers government expenditures on education, the military, health care, and debt service. Where figures are available, the portion of government spending on education that is specifically dedicated to primary education is also shown.1902

While it is difficult to draw conclusions or discern clear correlations between areas of government expenditure as a percentage of GNP and the incidence of child labor in a country, this chart and the related tables presented in Appendix B (Tables 14 through 19) offer the reader a basis for considering the relative emphasis placed on each spending area by the governments in each of the 33 countries profiled in the report.

1823 World Bank, World Development Indicators 2000 [CD-ROM], Washington, D.C., 2000 [hereinafter World Development Indicators 2000 ].

1824 Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Uganda’s Report and Position on Child Labour , prepared for the OUA/ ILO African Regional Tripartite Conference on Child Labour (Kampala, January 1998), 27 [hereinafter Uganda’s Report and Position on Child Labour ]. According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics 1991 Population and Housing Census summary results, it is estimated that children 17 years and under comprised 53.8 percent (9 million) of the total population (

1825 Ministry of Gender, Department of Statistics, Women and Men in Uganda: Facts and Figures 1998 , 45, as cited in Children in Domestic Service: A Survey in Kampala District (Kampala: FIDA Uganda, 2000), 1 [hereinafter Children in Domestic Service ].

1826 Ibid. at 9.

1827 UBOS is preparing a child labor report that is expected by the end of 2001. ILO-IPEC, Statistical Information and Monitoring Program on Child Labor in Uganda , Technical Progress Report No.4, 28 November 2001.

1828 The State of, and Action Against, Child Labour in Uganda: Report on the Proceedings and Outcomes of the National Workshop on the State of Child Labour in Uganda (Kampala: Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, July 1996), 8-9 [hereinafter The State of, and Action Against, Child Labour in Uganda ].

1829 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1999 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of State, 1999), 531 [hereinafter Country Reports 1999—Uganda ].

1830 UNAIDS/World Health Organization Epidemiological fact sheet, 2000, Uganda, 3. It is estimated by UNAIDS that since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, 1.7 million children in Uganda have lost their mother or both parents to AIDS.

1831 The State of, and Action Against, Child Labour in Uganda at 9. Other commonly cited causes of child labor are cultural attitudes and practices; family breakdown and labor shortages; exploitive attitudes among adults; deficiencies in the education system; structural adjustment policies; and armed conflict and war, as cited in Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Uganda’s Report and Position on Child Labour at 7.

1832 Electronic correspondence from Sopie Kyagulanyi, Legal Assistant for the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, Kampala, Uganda, to U.S. Department of Labor official, September 29, 2000 [hereinafter Kyagulanyi correspondence].

1833 The Employers’ Effort in Eliminating Child Labour within the Formal Agricultural Sector in Uganda: A Study Conducted by the Federation of Uganda Employers , April 1999, International Labor Organization, vii [hereinafter The Employers’ Effort in Eliminating Child Labour ].

1834 Ibid. at 22.

1835 Uganda’s Report and Position on Child Labour at 6.

1836 Children in Domestic Service at vi to vii.

1837 National Programme on the Elimination of Child Labor in Uganda, project document (Geneva: ILO-IPEC, prepared October 1998, revised 1999), 3 [document on file].

1838 Kyagulanyi correspondence.

1839 Ibid.

1840 Country Reports 1999—Uganda at 533.

1841 Kyagulanyi correspondence.

1842 Ibid.

1843 Summary Outline for Action Program on Child Labor, Kids in Need (KIN), ILO-IPEC, June 12, 2000, 2. Full- time street children are said to have lost touch with their families and live on the streets permanently.

1844 Child Soldier Global Report 2001: Uganda , Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers (www.child- [hereinafter Child Soldier Global Report 2001 ].

1845 Ibid.

1846 “Uganda Releases 163 Congolese Child Soldiers” (

1847 Since the early 1980s, Uganda’s northern region has been continuously disrupted by armed conflict, particularly in the districts of Gulu, Kitgum, Lira, Apac, Arua, Adjumani, and Moyo, and across the border in southern Sudan. Rebels are associated with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). See Also Child Soldier Global Report 2001.

1848 Tom Barton, Alfred Mutiti and the Assessment Team for Psycho-Social Programmes in Northern Uganda, Northern Uganda Psycho-Social Needs Assessment (Kisubi, Uganda: Marianum Press, 1998), vii-viii.

1849 Ibid. See also Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act 2000: Trafficking in Persons Report (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Labor, 2001).

1850 Child Soldier Global Report 2001.

1851 USAID, GED 2000: Global Education Database [CD-ROM], Washington, D.C., 2000.

1852 United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Institute for Statistics [CD- ROM], Education for All: Year 2000 Assessment , Country Report, Uganda (Paris, 2000) [hereinafter Education for All: Year 2000 Assessment—Uganda ].

1853 Education for All (EFA) 2000 [online], Country Report, Uganda ( uganda/contents.html) [hereinafter EFA 2000].

1854 The Ugandan Experience of Universal Primary Education (UPE) (Kampala: Ministry of Education and Sports, July 1999), 13 [hereinafter Ugandan Experience of Universal Primary Education ].

1855 EFA 2000 ( See Also Ugandan Experience of Universal Primary Education at 10.

1856 Ugandan Experience of Universal Primary Education at 12.

1857 Ibid. at 5.

1858 Ibid. According to the same source, there were 96,830 primary school teachers and 17,534 secondary school teachers.

1859 Ibid. at 11.

1860 Nicholas Kajoba, “158,000 Disabled Pupils Enrolled in Universal Primary Education,” New Vision , September 18, 2000 (www://; cited March 6, 2001.

1861 Ugandan Experience of Universal Primary Education at 4.

1862 Line Eldring, Sabata Nakanyane, and Malehoko Tshoaedi, Child Labour in the Tobacco-Growing Sector in Africa , report prepared for the IUF/ITGA/BAT conference “Elimination of Child Labour,” Nairobi, October 8-9, 2000, 73.

1863 “Education and the Labour Market,” in Employment Generation and Poverty Reduction in Uganda (ILO East Africa Multidisciplinary Advisory Team (EAMAT MDT), Chapter 7, 10-11. ( papers/1997/pover_ug/chap7.htm).

1864 Ugandan Experience of Universal Primary Education at 14.

1865 National Strategy for Girls’ Education in Uganda, Ministry of Education and Sports, 2000, 3.

1866 U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), United Nations Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for Uganda [on-line], November 1999 [cited 18 March 2002]; available from: < rwb/nsf> [hard copy on file].

1867 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, Article 34 (4)(5) (; cited August 14, 2001.

1868 Uganda’s Report and Position on Child Labour at 25.

1869 Ibid. at 25-26.

1870 Ibid. at 25.

1871 The Children Statute at 12..

1872 Kyagulanyi correspondence at 5. See Also Ministry of Local Governement website at <http://>

1873 Uganda Child Labour Project , Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Department of Labour, 1 (received by U.S. Department of Labor on March 19, 1998) [document on file].

1874 The Employers’ Effort in Eliminating Child Labour at 4.

1875 Article 125 of the Penal Code of Uganda, as cited in The Protection Project, Country Report, Uganda, January 2001 (

1876 Ibid.

1877 Ibid.

1878 Report of the Policy Makers’ Seminar on Child Abuse in Uganda, June 7, 2000, paper presented by Deborah Serwada, program director, Hope after Rape, “Paper Presentation on Defilement,” 6.

1879 For a list of which countries profiled in Chapter 3 have ratified ILO Conventions No. 138 and No. 182, see Appendix C.

1880 Children in Domestic Service at 14.

1881 Interview with Dr. Regina Mbabazi, ILO-IPEC coordinator, by U.S. Department of Labor official, August 14, 2000.

1882 Ibid.

1883 Targeting the Worst Forms of Child Labor in the Tea, Tobacco and Coffee Sectors in Uganda (Geneva: ILO- IPEC, September 2000) [document on file]. Among the institutions that are anticipated to play an active role in the project are the Federation of Uganda Employers, National Organization of Trade Unions, National Union of Plantation and Agricultural Workers, World Food Program, UNICEF, Save the Children Norway, various government ministries, and other nongovernmental and community-based organizations providing direct services to child laborers.

1884 “TN 2: Case Example: Uganda’s Poverty Reduction Strategy,” The World Bank Group ( participation/tn.2htm); cited August 28, 2001. The Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP) aims to promote increased incomes for the poor by supporting various rural development initiatives; improving the quality of life of the poor by improving access to health care, education and clean water; and strengthening governance through mechanisms to increase accountability and transparency, decentralization, and the democratic principles of consultation and civic participation.

1885 U.S. Embassy-Kampala, unclassified telegram no. 000782, March 15, 2001.

1886 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, Article 34 (2) (; cited August 14, 2001.

1887 Ugandan Experience of Universal Primary Education at 15.

1888 Ibid. at 16-17.

1889 “World Bank’s First-Ever Combination Grant-Credit Will Support Uganda Education,” News Release No. 98/ 1697/AFR, March 24, 1998.

1890 EFA 2000 (

1891 Ibid.

1892 Ibid.

1893 Ibid.

1894 Education for All: Year 2000 Assessment—Uganda . According to the Ministry of Education and Sports, Uganda spent US$8 per pupil in the early 1980s and by 1998, US$32.50 per pupil for primary education as stated in The Ugandan Experience of Universal Primary Education (UPE) (Kampala: Ministry of Education and Sports, July 1999), 19.

1895 Education for All: Year 2000 Assessment—Uganda .

1896 EFA 2000 ( This source does not report a baseline amount for these data.

1897 Ibid.

1898 Ugandan Experience of Universal Primary Education at 20.

1899 “World Bank and IMF Support Additional Debt Relief for Uganda Amounting to $1.3 Billion,” News Release No. 2000/327/S, May 2000.

1900 World Development Indicators 2000 [CD-ROM].

1901 Education for All: Year 2000 Assessment—Uganda .

1902 See Chapter 1, Section C, 5, for a fuller discussion of the information presented in the box. See also Appendix B for further discussion, and Tables 14 through 19 for figures on government expenditure over a range of years.