I grew up in a very loving family and as far back as I can remember, we had been middle class, until about age 12 when my family experienced a ‘great recession’. Life suddenly turned tough and one thing I remember mostly is that we did not have enough food to eat. We also moved from a good residential area to a very low income site and service area (i.e. where the local town council does the roads and bring running water, but residents build their own houses.)
Our new life was a shock to me as I had not been exposed to poverty before. Fortunately, my parents had talked to us about adjusting to life and so we settled down quite quickly. One thing we found in the new area was that everybody took part in the running of their households. Among other things, the children drew water from the communal taps and collected firewood (please don’t mention that this practice is not sustainable because all those involved know it already :(.
Two other things that children did was pick mushrooms during the rain season and the older boys went fishing to the nearby Kafue River. The children would clean the mushrooms and fish, dry and store them. Our parents never needed to tell us to do anything as we did all this at our own initiative. It did not occur to me at the time how much we saved and helped our parents. More than twenty years later, I remembered how much we ate those dried foods when there was nothing else to eat.
The issue of child labor never crossed anyone’s mind – children just did what other children did without question and without prodding from their parents. I am happy I went through that phase because I learnt that hard work brings good results, even though it was a tough time.