Reflecting Childhood in African History: A Study of Child Labour in South Africa


In pre-colonial Africa, child labour was considered a part of an educational, socializing and survival strategy. This practice was thus curtailed following the entrenchment of colonial rule predicated on western ideology and values. South Africa, with the bitter experience of white majority rule under the apartheid system, has a long history of child labour, a practice that continued in post-apartheid era largely due to poverty and socio-economic deprivation. Children of school age work in agriculture, factories and other sectors including sex industries. With a blend of primary and secondary sources, this study examines children’s involvement in the labour market from the colonial period to the post-apartheid years in South Africa, outlining the contributions of child labour directly or indirectly on the South African economy as well as its negative effects on children. It recommends that since children are important in African economic contest, they should not be used exploitatively, but should work within the immediate family structure, as a way of achieving an informal education for future enhancement.

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Type: Document