Obviously surprised by our question, Benito (not real name) did not have time to prepare himself to answer when we asked the question of why his son was in his workshop: “It is to make him observe his Dad’s daily working” he said. Then, when we made him notice that it is clear that his child is not just observing, but actually working, Benito’s answer got more than confused: «It’s just for this period, when schools are closed because of COVID-19».
Kevin (not real name) is a third-grader in elementary school, but he looks like someone who is used to maneuvering. Kevin is very fun. We had a talk with him. First, how old are you, Kevin? “I don’t know my age,” he laughs. His Father, in a corner of the workshop, tells us his age: «he is 11-years-old». Continuing our conversation with Kevin, he will not be long to admit to us as soon as we have made, with quite some malice, the following comment: Oh Kevin, but you will not be able to blow fire since you do not have enough biceps. It sounded like an affront to him and his answer comes as an act of pride: “I’ve been doing this since three years”. Little silence in the workshop... (hum, Benito said that Kevin is now 11-years-old? So, he has been working in his Dad’s forge since the age of eight).
His Father’s gaze becomes fleeting. He knew that we knew that his son has just disowned him. “No, for sure, he will go back to school. As I told you, it’s just because the schools are closed due to COVID-19,” said Benito trying to defend himself.
We smiled to insure Benito and we promised to come back to visit him when Coronavirus will be declared kicked-out.
Indeed, Kevin does not only turn the handle of the forge, he is also a salesman of the brands of his Dad’s workshop. In the early afternoons, he wears his life-vest, chooses the pots and pans that he stores in a bag and goes around the districts. Estimated outcomes at the end of the day’s sale is 15,000 FCFA (about 30 US dollars) if the package of the six pans is sold out.
Kevin does attend elementary school. He lives alone with his father, separated from his mother who has already got another marriage in the meantime.
Kevin wants to go to school and dreams of staying in the scrap metal: «I want to become later mechanics or welding», he says, while observing his Father and another polishing the pots coming out of the forge.
In Central African Republic (CAR), children represent 49% of the population. Kevin is part of the 29% of children who are experiencing child labor exposing them to any sort of danger.
With the temporary closure of schools by the Government to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many parents tend to use their children as additional workforce. World Vision is working with community and faith leaders, as well as parents, to increase awareness rising on children protection issues, including child labor, and violence and abuse against children. In addition to monitoring and responding to child protection issues, WV advocates with relevant institutions and stakeholders to keep up children education while schools are closed.