The plight of our children all around the world remains a frontline topic at big and small conferences, in the families and at different institutions. In all countries that are ravaged by war or civil, religious as well as ethnic strife, women and children are the foremost victims. The information made available by the National Agency for Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Other Related Matters, NAPTIP, stated that estimated 180 million children around the world are being enslaved through child labour.
According to the Enugu Zonal Coordinator of the agency, Mrs. Nkiruka Micheal, employers exert such inhuman control over the unfortunate children. “Those subjected to child labour are under the control and at the mercy of their employers, as they rarely have access to education and are subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse. These children are too young to do the jobs assigned to them; they are engaged in long hours while doing the jobs but are paid too little for the jobs. They are subjected to dangerous working environment, among others.”
The level of wickedness met out to children under this condition is unspeakable. Often, parents are lured with fictitious promise by guardians. This is aptly captured by Mrs. Michael thus: “The exploitation comes in deceptive forms which include promise to sell in big supermarkets, hair dressing saloons in the city, promise of marriage abroad, promise to be models abroad, promise to play for foreign football clubs, among others.”
A survey conducted by the Federal Office of Statistics, FOS and supported by the International Labour Organisation stated that out of the 120muillion Nigerian population, more than 15 million Nigerian children below the age of 14 works under hard condition to take care of the cost of going to school and related needs. It showed that out of this figure, 7.8 million were boys while 7.2 million were girls. Further breakdown of the figure showed that out of the 15million, eight million were in school; six million of the working children were not in school at all (51 percent girls and 49 percent boys).
Recently the ILO again raised alarm over what it described as the worsening case of child labour in Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African countries. At a press conference in Geneva to mark the World Day against Child Labour, the Director, ILO’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour, Constance Thomas, stated that, “There are worsening situation of child labour in Nigeria just as in other African countries. Child labour is a general problem in Nigeria and Africa percentage wise and there are some countries in Africa where one out of four children is in child labour and many of those are in child domestic work doing “cleaning, ironing, cooking, gardening, collecting water, looking after other children and caring for the elderly”.
Cultural, traditional, religious, illiteracy, poverty and gender are the spring board encouraging the activities that create the platform for child labour to thrive. Mrs. Michael was right after all: children in this category go through untold “trauma and depression, loss of childhood care and education, unwanted pregnancies, early motherhood, stigmatisation, high risks of contracting Sexually Transmitted Diseases, among others”.
This is a challenge to governments at all levels, traditional and religious institutions in the country. There is an urgent need to address this menace through necessary legal framework, better economic policies and refined cultural practices.