A Cross River- based nongovernmental organisation, Child Protection Network, has said child labour remains a huge challenge in the state.
The Chairman, James Ibor, said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday in Calabar on the side-lines of activities to mark the World Day Against Child Labour.
NAN reports that the World Day Against Child Labour is commemorated annually on June 12 to raise awareness and activism on the prevention of child labour worldwide.
The theme of this year’s celebration is ‘Children shouldn’t work in Fields but on Dreams’.
Mr Ibor said his organisation, with the support of the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), recently discovered about 318 under-aged children working in dump sites in the state.
According to him, these children, who have no opportunity of going to school, are not trained to work in dump sites and are too young to be involved in such hazardous labour.
“These children are actively involved in sorting different waste materials that are poisonous and injurious to their health.
“We have this number actively involved in dump sites not to talk of so many who hawk on the streets rather than being in classrooms.
“It means there is no way we would fulfil the sustainable development goals as enshrined in the Millenium Development Goals.
“It is sad and I hope we use this opportunity to rethink and plan for children involved in labour in the state,” he said.
The child labour expert expressed regrets that the state had only managed to implement five per cent of the Child Rights Act signed into law in 2009.
“For Cross River Government to pride itself as a state fit for the child, we have to begin to implement the Child Rights Law.
“The Child Rights Law was not imposed on Cross River but a law we signed, I am therefore shocked that we have wilfully refused to implement our own law,” he said.
Christian Andrew, the Programme Manager, Today for Tomorrow, another NGO, said the theme of the 2019 edition was timely because of the number of children presently working in fields when they should be in the classrooms.
Mr Andrew said parents should be sensitised about its negative effects while the government should be involved in ensuring that no child was found on the streets during school hours.
“In the last two administrations of this state, there was a taskforce that ensured that any child caught hawking during school hours was arrested and their parents fined.
“This curbed the menace of child hawkers in Cross River.
“Today, we have a different administration and this taskforce is no more; so you see children everywhere in Calabar hawking, some of them carrying heavy loads.
“This taskforce must return while parents should be made to understand that sending a child to school to develop and realise his dream is the only way to secure the child’s future,” he said.
According to the UN, 152 million children worldwide still engage in child labour while many have dropped out of school to help their parents earn a livelihood.