Nigeria’s future needs a major rescue operation almost everywhere you turn. Nigerian adults are wasted, the youths are dislocated and the children are endangered. The formative years of childhood is that time when the mind is pliable, receptive and plastic. For a child’s mind to be well moulded, a normal childhood has to be guaranteed. A normal childhood is such that is spent with parents, teachers and friends in a carefree and fun-loving manner while playing and learning. It is the age where fine and long lasting impressions coagulates in a child’s mind. The age of childhood is the most definitive period of life for the development of spiritual, intellectual, emotional and social well being. Many children are scarred and tormented because they have been robbed of the most innocent phase of their life; the phase where the human foundations ought to have been laid for a successful adult life. Many children live in the dungeons of hell doing grueling work, controlled and tortured by others. This is the sad and depressing story of child labour.
Every child has inalienable rights to his childhood without undergoing the perilous hardship of child labor. Many children are forcefully put to work throughout the world with Nigeria witnessing the most virulent forms of child labor, particularly in agriculture and domestic service according to the US Department of Labour in its 2010 report. In this country, the amoral middle class employ innocent children as domestic help to manage their homes and nurture their own children. Children in these households get beaten and are subjected to a lot of mental and verbal abuse when they make a mistake or did not learn fast enough. In homes where they undergo servitude, children servants are made to starve and are given worn, oversized clothes to wear. Apart from domestic service and agriculture, many children are pushed into forced labor packaged as apprenticeship under tailors, vulcanizers, mechanics, carpenters etc.. Those who escape being rented out are herded into hawking various goods and are often made to carry load that are a lot heavier than their own body weight. Everywhere, children are being forced to earn their keep and contribute significantly to their family’s survival.
Child labour is social malice and wanton subjugation. No reason is sufficient enough to justify it, children should be entitled to their childhood. Poverty and lack of education are frequently advanced as the primary reasons for the escalating growth of child labor. Why poverty is not a crime, child labor and abuse is a crime and should be punished. Poor parents give birth to children they have no means to care for. They bear lots of children in anticipation that at least one of them will “make it”. They see their own children as money-making machines. Some of them revel in it; they carry infants on their backs to earn money on the streets from begging. The infants themselves grow up to be beggars or are rented out to the beggars cartel to whom they render daily returns. This malady is rampant and obtains in all urban centers across Nigeria. Across Northern Nigeria especially in Zamfara state child miners are facing unprecedented incidents of lead poisoning with severe consequences to their neurological wellbeing yet the government looks away. Throughout the land, large scale use of child workers actually creates the impression that child labor is legal when it is not.
The United Nations stipulation in article 32 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Labor Organization, child labor is to be considered if “…States recognize the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.” What this means is that any kind of work that harms or exploits children physically, mentally, morally, or by preventing access to education is child labor. Not all work is bad or exploitive of children like Summer jobs, babysitting, helping out where mum and dad practices a trade and lawn care and such tasks that do not interfere with schooling. Children can embrace good work ethics and understand the value of money when they earn pocket money from running tasks for their parents or neighbors but forced labor is inhuman and cruel. Child labor and its evil twin – child abuse has today become one of the greatest evils that have spread across the world and one of Africa’s biggest export. The numbers mounts every year with statistics showing increasing numbers of child abuse, especially with the girl child. Girls continues to be abused by close relatives or given away as bride to men old enough to be their fathers.
About 25 percent of Nigeria’s 80 million children under the age of 14 are in the work force according to International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates. This estimate may not include the hordes of Nigerian “Street children” who roam urban streets as beggars on active duty instead of going to school. Sometimes these children are made to go hungry for days so people may feel some empathy and give them alms. Nigeria passed Child’s Rights Law designed to incorporate all the rights guaranteed in the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child 10years ago. The U.N. convention, adopted in 1959, states that: “The child shall be protected against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation. He … shall not be admitted to employment before an appropriate minimum age; he shall in no case be caused or permitted to engage in any occupation or employment which would prejudice his health or education, or interfere with his physical, mental or moral development.” Nigeria signed the U.N convention and incorporated its provisions into federal law but it was not adopted by all of Nigeria’s 36 states. Only 24 of the 36 states House of Assembly has passed it into law. Of the 12 states yet to ratify this law, only one is a Southern state. The rest are Northern states where child labor is most prevalent.
What can we do? All men of good conscience should fight to eradicate child labor. If slavery can be abolished, child labor can. The first step would be to acknowledge the causes of child labor. The foremost reason for child labor is that children are easier to exploit. Secondly, extreme poverty induces child labor. In an environment where people have more children than they can cater for, they rent their children to exploitive employers to earn additional sources of income. Parents who cannot afford education for their children or feed an extra mouth send their children to work. 25 percent of 80million is scandalous. We must all conspire to curb and ultimately stamp out child labor. Without creating unnecessary bureaucracy, the states departments of social welfare must open a unit to help children in exploitive circumstances. These unit may consist of social workers, psychologists and other administrative personnel, employed specifically to deal with child labor issues. Non-government organizations must redouble their efforts at rescuing and rehabilitating underage children under forced labor. The government must be committed to poverty reduction, equal and easy access to quality universal basic education and provision of some kind of social security.
Collectively, we can do our part by refusing to buy goods from child hawkers. Do not buy from that little girl running after your car barefoot with a pack of peanuts in traffic and that boy peddling “pure water”. Tell them you are not buying from them because they shouldn’t be on the streets selling stuff. Every one of us should take responsibility and report anyone employing a child below the age of fourteen years because the enormity of child labor calls for concerted effort from all strata of our society. We need to stop this crime against children and make sure every child lives a healthy and normal childhood.
The Anambra Elections
The elections in Anambra is the template for the 2015 schema. Watch out!
Kindly follow me on Twitter @olufunmilayo
Send your feedback to olufunmilayo @ gmail.com
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...