Without an iota of doubt, child labour has risen to a higher crescendo in Nigeria. Clamping down child labour will be a right step in the right direction but it seems as if this area of our human endeavour has not been given much attention.
Child labour simply put is making use of children not more than seven or 14 years old engaged in menial jobs or other domestic or industrial duties when he supposed to be in school or under their parents’ supervision.
‘’No to child labour is our stance. Yet, 15 million are in child labour as a matter of survival. A world without child labour is possible with the parents or wards, and the government giving it the right priorities and policies’’.-Juan Somavia, Former Director–General, International Labour Organization
Quality education, opportunities for young people, decent work for parents, a fundamental social protection rights for all are sine- qua- non.
It is worthwhile if we are driven by conscience and muster the courage and conviction to act in solidarity and ensure a child’s right to his or her childhood. The rewards cannot be over-emphasized.
It is generally acknowledged that the social vice that is often referred to as child labour has continued unabated in our modern-day society. This globally unacceptable practice is currently evolving into different forms within the social circles and sectors of the economies, both in Nigeria and overseas.
The International Labour Organisation(ILO) defines Child Labour as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity and is harmful to physical and mental development. Other international organizations agree and consent to the exploitative global practice.
Although the severity of the practice differs from country to country and economic activities, child labour in most cases has been identified as a symptom of poverty and inequality in any given society.
While legislation across the globe prohibits child labour practices, these laws do not consider all works carried out by children as child labour, exceptions include works by child artists, supervised training, and certain categories of work such as those by Amish children and others.
In 2010, the ILO announced that sub–Saharan Africa had the highest incidence rates of child labour with many African Nations witnessing over 40% of children aged 5-14 working worldwide, and agriculture being the largest employer of child labour.
The ILO further estimated that agricultural activities are the most endemic with the practice of child labour accounting for 58.6% of cases recorded in 2013 within the sector.
Of particular significance is the practice of child labour in tobacco growing. This escalated the growing concern and advocacy efforts for sensitization and improved awareness of the disadvantages of child labour within the agricultural sector. Some are also into petty trading or hawking in the streets.
According to the UNICEF factsheet on child labour in Nigeria, a staggering 15 million children under 14 are working in Nigeria. These children, according to research, have been forced to work long hours under extremely dangerous, unhealthy and unpalatable conditions that infringe on their rights, especially with the mere stipend they are paid, food and little or no education.
It is noteworthy not to overlook the cultural aspects of this issue as it was in the past with our forefathers when children worked with their families, learning skills they would need as adults, but today, it has gone to the extreme. Children are coerced to work for their own survival as well as for the economic survival of their families! Children are deprived of sustainable support for long-term survival and growth in today’s world vis-a-vis education.
Perhaps we should look at the obvious effects of Child labour which include:
- Deprivation of normal childhood experience
- Physical and mental torture
- Dangerous mental and emotional maturity
- Condemnation of a life of unskilled, badly paid work
- Risk of various harassment including physical and sexual.
(the list is inexhaustible)
Owing to the increasing rate of child labour over the years, the Nigerian government, on 4th September 2013 adopted a draft policy to address child labour issues as it affected over 6 million children in the country.
In addition, while combating the practice of child labour in the tobacco industry, the International Tobacco Growers Association, (ITGA) in 1999, signed an agreement with the International Union of Food Workers on the elimination of child labour in tobacco growing.
While we salute the courage and efforts of the ILO, UNICEF and other private organizations, locally and abroad, to stem this tide of child labour in our midst, we advocate that the Nigeria government should not rest on their laurels but continuously make our children feel the impact of their childhood in the areas of education, food, health and other social welfare interventions.