Contentious debates about the allowable minimum age of child laborers informed the discourse of child labor in colonial Kenya between 1922 and the 1950s. Beginning with the Harry Thuku Uprising of 1922 that instigated the discussion over labor policy concerning juvenile wage laborers and heightened the tension between the British colonial administration and African adult workers, the British government in Kenya struggled to forge coherent labor policies concerning the ages of African child workers. Frequent changes in labor laws made it easier for labor recruiters and employers to manipulate the system by recruiting younger children for work thus drawing them into the orbit of an alien labor force that often interfered with their childhood. The uncertainty surrounding the minimum age engendered acrimonious debate between white employers and anti-child labor advocates over who among them had the moral authority to speak for the children and act as their moral guardians and avuncular figures. This article discusses child labor in colonial Kenya. Focusing almost exclusively on African boys as actors in child labor, the article analyzes labor history that highlights changes in the meaning of minimum age in an economic system that promised African children prosperity. It frames age as a category of analysis that explains the intersection of colonial labor laws and juvenile workers. The close analysis of African children and their labor situation also reveals a mosaic of everyday life in colonial Kenya that brings children into an acknowledged circulation of imperial ideas and imagination.
Ndanyi, Samson K.. "“God Was With Us:” Child Labor in Colonial Kenya, 1922 - 1950s." Journal of Retracing Africa: Vol. 3, Issue 1 (2016): 1-20. https://encompass.eku.edu/jora/vol3/iss1/3