5 Feb, 2019

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Participants pose for a group photo soon after the official opening of the training
A training needs assessment conducted through “Mainstreaming child and forced labour in the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) academic programmes” project, which is implemented by LUANAR with funding from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), has revealed that LUANAR students do not have sound knowledge about child and forced labour .

Sixty percent of child labourers in the country work in the agricultural sector and most decision makers and frontline workers in the sector are trained by LUANAR hence the need for mainstreaming child labour in its programmes.

Despite the fact that Malawi has acceded to international agreements and has enacted national laws, the number of children joining the labour market seems to be on the increase mostly due to poverty. Likewise, implementation of the legislation in Malawi concerning employment of children is not as effective as it should have been because of the lack of information and awareness on the part of both workers and employers and weak monitoring and labour inspection system at the directorate level. Therefore, child labourers as well as the labour force in the agriculture, fisheries, tourism and small-scale mining sectors continue to be exposed to different types of chemical and physical hazards in their working environment.

According to the study, the existing academic programmes at LUANAR generally do not cover issues related to child and forced labour, except for just very few that partially touch on o the same. As a result, students graduate from LUANAR without prerequisite knowledge and skills on how to address the menacing voice of child labour. This is despite the fact that the rising cases of child and forced labour in the country are mostly from the agricultural sector.

“In addition, a review of research and publication profiles of LUANAR faculty and students show that there is very little that is covered on child and forced labour. Yet LUANAR, by its nature as an agricultural university that trains most of the professionals in agricultural industry, was supposed to play a key role in finding innovating solutions to this challenge,” reads the report.

The report further says that while most decision makers in the university are aware of other cross-cutting issues like HIV/AIDS, gender, and climate change, most of these decision makers are not fully aware of child and forced labour issues and how serious a problem these issues are.

According to one of the Project Team Members, Mr. Masautso Chimombo, the main aim of the training needs assessment was to identify the specific knowledge and skills gaps on child labour issues among LUANAR students.

“The main objective of the training needs assessment was to identify the specific knowledge and skills gaps of existing child labour issues among officials from the government and private sector, and students from LUANAR. The information indicates awareness and knowledge gaps, misconceptions and common forms of child and forced labour that will help in the module development,” he said.

He said the team administered a knowledge test to Bunda Campus and City Campus students at the LUANAR pursuing different academic programs.

The assessment used purposive sampling of participating departments’ programmes. Within each purposively sampled academic programme, either simple random sampling or census was done in selecting students that took part in the knowledge test on child and forced labour.

Among others, the study found out that only 29.11 percent have sound knowledge on what child labour is, 41.8 have sound knowledge on what forced child labour is, 56.34 percent have sound knowledge of who a child is legally, and as low as 28.64 percent of LUANAR students have sound knowledge of what the worst forms of child labour are.

The study further says that the findings imply that LUANAR graduates are not fully equipped to lead the fight against child labour in their work places where often they are decision makers and that they may not have the right attitudes that strongly abhors child labour.

The study therefore recommended mainstreaming child and forced labour modules in university and college curricula in LUANAR academic programmes, saying this will ensure that LUANAR will be producing graduates that have already sound and sufficient knowledge and skills and the right attitude on child and forced labour.

“In addition, the mainstreaming of child and forced labour in the curricula will result in graduates that have the right attitude towards child and forced labour. In the medium and long run, Malawian organizations and institutions will be full of workers that have sufficient knowledge in child and forced labour with zero tolerance to child and forced labour.” Reads the report.

So far, the project has engaged faculty deans and heads of departments as one way of lobbying for mainstreaming of child labour in LUANAR curricular. As a short-term measure, with funding from the International Labour Organization (ILO), the project has trained fifty undergraduate LUANAR Students, including members of Bunda and City Campus Student Unions. According to Mr. Chimombo, the project has also provided partial scholarship to one postgraduate student to carry out research on child and forced labour.