|More than 1.7 million Kenyan children of school-going age are out of classrooms despite the free primary education programme introduced five years ago.
Most of the children were engaged in activities which hindered their participation in education, among them child labour, the minister for Gender and Children Affairs minister, Ms Esther Murugi Mathenge, said on Monday.
But she said her ministry would ensure that all children were enrolled in schools.
The minister decried the increasing number of child labourers in the country, saying it currently stood at 700,000. She said cases of child labour were especially rampant in miraa-growing areas of Meru North District and asked the provincial administrators to work with children’s officers to curb the vice.
The minister was speaking at the Embu Agricultural Staff Training College during this year’s celebrations to mark International Day of the African Child.
Ms Mathenge said child labour and sexual abuse were the biggest challenges facing her ministry.
“Cases of defilement are rising daily despite efforts to eradicate them.
“The Sexual Offences law needs to be enhanced to give total protection to the children,” she said.
In addition, the minister talked of the need to involve children in formulating policies affecting them.
Earlier, while paying a courtesy call on Eastern provincial commissioner David Jakaiti, Ms Mathenge said her ministry was too understaffed and poorly equipped to cope with the many issues affecting children in the country.
She said some of the newly created districts lacked personnel and facilities to handle children affairs.
Unicef country representative Olivia Yambi called for the enforcement of the Sexual Offences Act to ensure that those who abused children are brought to book.
Monday’s occasion commemorates the South African apartheid government’s 1976 massacre of more than 700 children in Soweto, during demonstrations to protest against the poor quality of education in that country. The occasion was marked with pomp and colour as children from various schools sang and recited poems.