Children in child labour
by MA Johnson
June 12, 2018 | 1:21 am| | | Start Conversation
It’s been observed that as globalization spreads, exploitation, oppression and violation of children are on the increase while efforts to prevent child labour have been a challenge. Today, the twelfth day of June 2018, the entire world is celebrating the World Day against Child Labour. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has mapped out numerous events to mark this year’s ceremony. This year, the World Child Labour Day shines a spotlight on the need to end child labour, improve the safety and health of young workers, and to give voice to children who can’t be heard.
Child labour is endemic worldwide as there are more than 168 million children: 100 million boys and 68 million girls trapped in labour, according to the United Nations Economic Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). These figures account for almost 11 percent of the overall child population globally. Child labour takes place in developed nations and it is worse in less developed countries. Child labour entails work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children and deprives them of opportunities for schooling and development, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Asia pacific is the region with the largest incidents of child labour despite being a vibrant economic zone. Within the region, a few children are boxers, fishermen, machinists, sugar cane farmers, blacksmiths, and prostitutes etcetera, in order to make ends meet.
Recently, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in its 2017 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) says about 50.8 percent of Nigerian children, ages between 5 and 17 are involved in child labour. While the number of working children under the age of 14 in Nigeria is estimated at fifteen million, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). In Nigeria, child labour is rampant in street vending, begging, car washing and shoe shining. Other children work as apprentice mechanics, vulcanizers, hairdressers, and bus conductors while a large number work as domestic servants and farm hands. Some children do these jobs without any pay while others are paid stipends.
From the NBS report, the North Central has the highest burden of child labour of 56.8 percent followed by the North West accounting for 55.1 percent. South-South region has 48.7 percent; South East 46.6 percent and South West 38 percent. In Nigeria and most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, major causes of child labour include poverty, rapid urbanization, breakdown in extended family affiliations, the rate of high school drop-out and lack of enforcement of legal instruments meant to protect children.
One of the most common practices of child labour is the use of children as domestic servants. In years past, children have worked only for their families. But today, children are forced to work for their own survival and that of their families. Although disturbing, money earned by a child for his or her family members is a significant part of poor families’ income. These children who work suffer from fatigue, irregular attendance at school, lack of comprehension and motivation, improper socialization, exposure to risk of sexual abuse and high possibility of being involved in crime. Some children especially young girls between the ages of 14 and 17 are exploited against their will to operate as “Nigeria’s baby farmers.” Baby farming is an industry in Nigeria where new babies are sold to human traffickers. This is a very sad development to observe. It’s because we’re in a society where corruption is endemic, healthcare and childcare systems are prone to the schemes of the criminal and corrupt.
As the population increases to 200 million in Nigeria, poverty equally rises. To make matters worse in Nigeria, insatiable killings of innocent citizens by insurgents in which homes are burnt, and farmlands destroyed have fueled poverty. High rate of poverty is at the heart of child labour while greed, culture, family size and others are contributory factors. With millions of children out of school, there is bound to be child labour.
The first pillar of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) states that nations should “end poverty in all its forms everywhere.” How do state and federal governments intend to tackle poverty under this program in Nigeria when most parents are jobless and fifteen million children are engaged in child labor? If jobless parents are not free from the shackles of poverty by creating opportunities for them to work, their children would remain poor. Although, poverty is a devastating problem of global magnitude, it is ruthless and relentless, giving rise to infant mortality, hunger, disease, illiteracy and child labour amongst others.
Almost three-fifths of the world’s extreme poor are concentrated in just five countries: Bangladesh, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, India and Nigeria, according to World Bank report in 2015. Where lies the hope of children who are “indentured servants” and have suffered unspeakable abuse for years? There is hope but more needs to be done by individuals, families and governments.
In Nigeria, some indigent parents still give out their underage daughters in marriage for food and money from another family. The “money marriage” in Obanliku Local Government Area of Cross River State is a case in point. This is another variant of child labor that has existed for decades. In this community, girls are sold to elderly men to clear debts owed by a poor family. This act is savagely cruel and must be stopped.
This writer believes children are a source of joy to those who have them and they must not be exposed to child labor. The reason why some parents willfully choose to subject their children to labour is mainly due to poverty and lack of education. With poverty and lack of education, child labour continues for fifteen million Nigerian children. So drastic steps must be taken by states and the federal government to enforce necessary laws on child labour. Enforcement of laws will stem the tide and perhaps reduce the burden on the larger society. Parents must have the number of children whose health, education and well-being can be provided for. The change must start from everyone of us, and ends only when all our children are free to be children.
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