Eighteen-year-old Thacien Ndacyayisenga from Kanama sector of Rubavu District dropped out of school in 2015 to work in tea plantations because his family was unable to pay his school fees and buy scholastic materials.
“I performed well in Primary Leaving Examinations but unfortunately I had no one to pay for my high school studies. Looking at our living conditions, I decided to search for employment in a tea plantation to help my family,” he narrates.
In 2016 Ndacyayisenga and his colleagues were approached by Rwanda Education Alternatives for Children in Tea-Growing Areas (REACH-T) project for training in vocational skills.
“I was taught welding and so far I earn between Rwf1500-2000 a day, yet I used to earn Rwf500 a day from tea picking.
Ndacyayisenga gave his testimony last week in Kigali during a meeting organized by REACH-T which attracted several government officials, tea cooperatives and factories representatives, former child labour victims and parents.
The meeting was part of the activities at the closing out of the REACH-T project which started in 2013 with the aim of reducing child labour in area of tea growing.
Addressing the meeting, the Minister for Public Service and Labour, Judith Uwizeye, said a big number of children engaged in child labour was in agricultural-related activities. She reiterated government’s commitment to ending this vice.
“There is a political will to end child labour in Rwanda, where different laws regulating labour in Rwanda were established, including the 2016 Ministerial Policy defining activities suitable for children and penalties for people employing children,” she said.
“Through the different measurers the government has put in place, we believe that people will understand that a child’s future depends on good education that results in both physical and psychological fitness,” she noted.
Lamech Nambajimana, the REACH-T project director, said the implementation of the project was in line with government’s socio-economic development policies.
“At the beginning, the project aimed at teaching children about agriculture, but the government established new policies that promote off-farm activities and we also thought it fitting to integrate vocational training programmes,” he explained.
Ndacyayisenga’s story is similar to that of 17-year-old Claudine Nikuze from Mulinga sector of Nyabihu District who started working on tea plantation at the age of 14 after dropping out of school in Senior Two.
Nikuze was employed for two years in tea plantation. It was during her third year that REACH-T co-opted her for vocational training.
“I learnt tailoring and sometimes I hire a machine which I use to earn some money,” she says.