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This thesis examines the prevention of child labour in Cameroon. It is worth noting that children between the ages of five to 18 years of age are involved in child labour activities mostly in the rural areas (these cases of child labour in the rural areas are mostly carried out in vast cocoa plantation) and some few instances in the urban areas.

It is an accepted fact that despite the efforts put in place by the Cameroon legal frame work in preventing child labour in Cameroon, the problem of child labour still persists.

Therefore, the principle aim of this research is to find out the reason for the continuous existence of child labour despite the efforts made by the Cameroon legal frameworks to prevent child labour.

The research methodology used in this thesis is purely doctrinal, which is the most suitable for legal research. The doctrinal research method makes use of both primary and secondary data.

At the end of this research, it is discovered that one of the primary cause of child labour is poverty. This thesis concluded by suggesting that Government can help to prevent child by subsidizing both the material and financial needs of poor families





For the past decade, child labour has been one of the biggest obstacles to social development.

Children are often victims of bad treatment, negative social and cultural practices, sexual abuse and all forms of economic hazardous exploitations including commercial sexual exploitation.

Child labour is a social challenge, especially in developing countries and Cameroon in particular.

Recently, the International Labour Organization 2013 estimated about 215 million children between the age of five to fourteen works worldwide.

These children are often maltreated as they work for prolonged hours under unfavourable conditions.

It is worth noting that these unfavourable conditions of work affect the physical, health and mental status of the children negatively.

We shall exhaustively examine the ill of child labour in Cameroon in the subsequent paragraph of study;


Children have a unique and privileged place in society since they are a vulnerable group of human beings. The age limit as set by the African Charter of the Rights and Welfare of the Child is below the age of 18 years.

African children need special care and protection. In this regard, all humans below the age of 18 are so considered children and as such entitled to the enjoyment of the rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, thought, religion and conscience

‘’To enable families living in poverty to survive, a quarter of a billion children aged 14 and below, both in and out of school, now work, often in perilous or healthy conditions’’.

It is worthy of note that child labour is a universal problem that affects almost every continent across the globe.

Child labour is described in article 32(1) of the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (hereafter referred to as UNCRC) as any form of work performed by a child that is likely to interfere with his or her education or to be harmful to their health, physical, mental, moral and social development.

This is true as children under child labour are considered as lost children, children with no promising future.

It is a result of certain human rights violation which gives rise to a number of fundamental constitutional rights; one of which is the right to human dignity. The constitution of the republic of Cameroon of 1972 as amended in 2008, in its preamble prohibits child labour of any nature.

The colonial period was characterized by pawning. Pawning is a system whereby children or pawns live with creditors as collateral security when their parent’s contract loans.

They work that pawns performed for creditors is considered as interest on the contracted loans.

Upon marriage to a member of the creditor’s household, the loan is cancelled. However, pawns were sold as slaves in situations of famine, hardship, drought, political instability and warfare. Sometimes, a family’s inability to pay a witch doctor or diviner for services rendered may result in pawning.

In Central Africa, the charging of interests on loans was a fairly recent phenomenon marked by the presence of colonial parties from its coasts to the

Girls were sometimes preferred as pawns by creditors because they performed multiple functions human reproduction, farmworkers, porters, and Wives.[9]

The period 1884-1945 witnessed the emergence of large scale internal migration amongst native peoples from the hinterlands to coastal areas and the start of urbanization processes on the coast. Child labour was thus the means to realize the colonial economies and policies put in place.

Children and adults were involved in agriculture, herding, manufacturing, warfare and hunting amongst other activities, my children were slaves and pawns.

Since children were part of the African hideous workforce, Europeans built capitalist economic structures in Cameroon partly on this indigenous foundation.

Children’s labour was cheap, sometimes free, and was important for the production and movement of crops to coastal towns and villages for export”.

There was a low population density in most chiefdom on the eve of colonization. For instance, in 1912, Cameroon’s population was only about 2.6 million persons and there was a scarcity of adult labour.

In consequence, colonialists transformed children from domestic or family workers into child labourers.

Thus German planters and administrators and French concessionary companies forcefully recruited Cameroonians to work in coastal German plantations, timber trade and rubber collection.

The Treaty was signed on 23 August 1891 between Dr. Eugene Zintgraff representing the German colonial government and Galega 1, the chief of Bali Nyonga in Kamerun which in part called on Galega I to recruit able and strong natives to work in German coastal plantations also encouraged child labour.

This is true as It is worth noting that in the course of recruiting strong and able workers, children were also recruited to tilled the gap where there was a Scarcity of adult labourers This is because; Forced labour policy decimated villages and forced children to lose parents through deaths and desertion of villages to hide in the forests. Some children had to work as domestic servants for European administrators.

The law generally protects children from exploitation in the workplace and specifies penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment for infringement; however, child labour, particularly in informal sectors, remained a problem.

The ILO Convention No. 182 calls for the prohibition and the elimination of the worst forms of child labour as a matter of urgency by exposing the importance of a child’s education and solidarity with others in protecting a child.

The ILO is in partnership with organizations such as Nkumu Fed Fed, located in Cameroon in protecting children’s rights, especially female children from being victims of child labour.

The government attempts to combat the worst form of child labour through the Labour Code. It ensures that children should not work in underground restaurants, bars, hotels or any job that exceeds their physical capacity in the industrial zone as per Law No. 017 of the Labour Code.

Even though missionaries criticized child labour, they also engaged in it. Missionary organizations in Kamerun allowed their pupils and students to work in farms and gardens without pay by growing crops for staff and student consumption.

Surpluses were sold in towns. Some male students and pupils made furniture. Female ones cleaned staff houses and prepared staff food and performed needlework. Money gained from these activities was used to promote other missionary activities.

Child labour and pawning was abolished, which influenced the development of colonial labour markets. The colonial period from 1945-1959, saw the abolition of forced labour, child labour and pawning which influenced the development of colonial labour markets.

 In post-colonial Cameroon, child labour was mostly practised in the rural and urban areas. The participation of children in economic activities was greatly dependent on the predominant economic activities which are carried out in the economy.

It is worth noting that child labour in colonial and post-colonial Cameroon is mainly influenced by factors such as parental power/control over their children, poverty, even the level of economic growth equally influence child labour in Cameroon.


There is a good enforcement mechanism of children’s rights at the international and national level. This is evident in various international Conventions and Declarations such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (CRC), and the African Charter of the Rights and Welfare of the Child 1990 (The African Children’s Charter).

Cameroon to this effect has ratified the CRC and the African Children’s Charter. Cameroon has a good legal framework such as the Labour Code, Penal Code, and Criminal Procedure Code. This notwithstanding, there is the continuous practice of child labour.

Children are taken from rural areas to urban areas by foster parents with promises of care and education, whereas, they are turned into labourers and victims of domestic violence. Some are converted into public vendors in streets aged 5 to 14 years.

This violation is also manifested in the various forms of child labour such as child trafficking and sexual exploitation, especially child prostitution.

The practice of child trafficking affects the protection of children’s rights in Cameroon. Children are trafficked from the rural areas to urban areas to be used as labourers, hawkers, prostitutes, thieves and street beggars.

It is worth noting that child labour has been prohibited in Cameroonian legal frameworks such as the Cameroon labour code of 14 August 1992, the penal code of the Republic of Cameroon of 12 July 2016 and most importantly, the constitution of Cameroon 2008 as amended.

Furthermore, Cameroon has ratified many international legal instruments prohibiting child labour such as the convention on the rights of a child 1989, and the African charter on the rights and welfare of a child 1990.

Despite this effort on the part of Cameroon, the ill of child labour is still prevalent.

The most loathsome offences committed against children are carried out by adults. One of the saddest of all is child labour because it is so often inflicted by parents, people whom the child loves the most, and so much dependent upon for his own very life.

At the very onset, there are difficulties in determining what child labour is all about? This is true as the line between child labour and harsh parental discipline and training is difficult to determine.

As C Nardinelli says “forms of punishment, discipline, and training considered appropriate and even nourishing in Elizabethan or Victorian days would be considered as child labour today. Therefore, the problem lies in distinguishing discipline which is Legitimate (lawful).

The problem presents itself in a variety of ways from the severely battered infant to the runaway adolescent who cannot tolerate the abuse any longer. The end results are teenagers and young adults who are ill-prepared to function with their peers.

Despite all these efforts to control the level of child labour worldwide, there are still Cases of child labour all over the world.

It is frustrating to know that these children became school dropouts and get into other dreadful acts such as drug abuse, prostitution and this greatly affects their livelihood.

There is an additional difficulty in attempting to determine the comparative seriousness of child labour as a social problem. This is true as it is difficult to evaluate the significance of child about in terms of the numbers of children affected.

The collection of data is somewhat misleading. This is because the people who carry out this vindictive activity always try all possible means to cover up their malicious acts.

The Cameroon National Commission for Human Rights and Freedoms which is one of the main enforcement mechanisms on the protection of children against child labour is impeded in its duty. This is because: firstly, the National Commission for Human rights and Freedoms is not independent of the government.

This is obvious from the fact that the government appoints its key personnel and funds the commission. With this scenario, it becomes difficult for the commission to write ill about the government.

This is due to the fact that all the members are gentlemen who have good table manners; that is they cannot talk while eating.

Serious cases of child labour are therefore not reported. Secondly, decisions of the commission relating to human rights violation (child labour) are not binding on the Government”. As such, it does not deter violation of children’s rights (child labour).

The protection of children’s rights especially the right to health requires the provision of health facilities that can be only be achieved when there is adequate finance. Free vaccines are given to children but it is not sufficient to accord protection to them.

Parents have difficulties affording hospital bills for their sick children. As a result, many suffer. Also, there are very few regional hospitals that cannot attend to all children or infants who are sick. This has led to a gradual increase in the infant mortality rate.


In view of the above problems, the following research questions will readily come
to our minds;

How is child labour prevented in international law?

What is the legal framework for the prevention of child labour in Cameroon?

Are efforts put in place on the prevention of child labour under the Cameroonian legal frameworks compatible with the standard in international law?

What policy recommendation can be made for the prevention of child labour in Cameroon?


1.5.1 General objective

The general objective of the researcher is to critically examine the prevention of child labour in Cameroon.

1.5.2 Specific Objectives

  • To assess the international legal framework preventing child labour

  • To examine the legal framework preventing child labour in Cameroon

  • To analyze the effectiveness of the various instrument preventing children labour

  • To proposed policy recommendations on the protection of children’s rights in Cameroon.


The research methodology used in this research is pure doctrinal which is
Commonly used in law. The doctrinal method is suitable in all legal research reason being that it includes qualitative methods. The sources of information used in this research are both primary and secondary sources of data.

The primary sources of data are statutes and other laws regulating child labour such as the Constitution of the Republic of Cameroon, the labour code of 1992, and the Cameroon penal code. Also, another very important primary source of data is case law.

This is true as, under the common law, case law constitute a vital source of law as the decisions of judges in the higher courts binds the lower courts (binding precedents). The secondary sources focus on gathering and analyzing existing information already available in the public domain; published in books, articles and other online sources.


There are many instances where children’s rights are violated through child labour in Cameroon. Although the government has put in an enormous effort to put to repose child labour, the practice persistently continues to exist to a momentous extent. As such it is good to embark on research like this so as to discover the reasons for the persistency.

This research is also carried out in compliance with the requirement in partial fulfilment for the award of Bachelor’s Degree in law (LLB).

[1] S. Garton Kamchedzera, “The Complementarily of the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the African Charter of the Rights of the Child”, in Eugeen Verhellen (ed), Understanding Children’s Rights 1998, p 550

[2] Article 2 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child

[3]  A. Muthoga, “Introducing the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child”, paper presented at the International Conference of the Rights of a Child, organized by Community Law Centre at the University of Capetown, (1992), p. 123

[4] Formal United Nation Secretary-General Kofi Annan in the millennium report 2000

[5] Article 32 of the United Nations convention on the right of the child 1989

[6] The Cameroon constitution of 1972 as amended in 2008

[7] (visited on 27 March 2021)

[8] G, Beverly. ‘Child labour in colonial Africa. In Hugh D. Hindman (ed). The world of child labour. A historical and regional survey (New York ; M. E. Sharpe , inc 2009

[9]Sundstromlars, the exchange economy of the precolonial tropical Africa., (London: C. Hurst and company, 1974)

[10]Fotso David Sackem, Modernization process and Child Labour in Central Africa. Master Thesis University Oslo

[11] orientated/C182Youth_Convention/lang–en/index.htm, visited, on the 25 march 2021

[12], visited on the 25 march 2021

[13] Government of Cameroon, “Etude sur le travail des enfants au Cameroun”, Institut National de la Statistique, 2007 p 2 to 3.

[14] International Labour Organization

[15] Ibid. footnote 7 and 8

[16] Y. Mbassi- Bikele, Education: A Quoi Servent les APEE? Cameroon- Tribune, January 16, 2013, p.1

[17] C. Nardinelli, “child Labour and the industrial revolution” (Indian university press 1990) at page 7

[18], visited on 27 march 2021

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