issues of child marriage and labour have attracted the attention of many international and national organisations, relevant agencies, and ministries in such a way that drastic and concerted efforts have been channelled towards addressing the plight of the children in the country.
Many Nigerian children have been subjected to some form of violence such as child labour and marriage and many more.
The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, NAPTIP, has therefore urged parents to embrace the educational policies of government at various levels to eradicate child labour in Nigeria. It’s Director General, Jedy-Agba gave the charge recently in Abuja to mark World Day Against Child Labour.
According to her, education of the child remains the best legacy a parent can leave for the child, adding that because education frees the mind from ignorance and the cycle of poverty, every child must be allowed to attain the minimum level of education available in the country.
She said that all parents, for their children’s benefit, should embrace the federal government’s Universal Basic Education, the Almajiri Education Programme as well as other programmes run by states.
“We join the International Labour Organisation, ILO, to call on government at all levels who are yet to enforce the free, compulsory and quality education for children to do so in their states. Children belong in classrooms, not hawking on the highway and busy streets, quarries, mines, etc. where they endanger their lives on a daily basis,” she stated.
Jedy-Agba explained that child exploitative labour deprives children of quality education that would improve their lives and brighten their future.
She lamented that over 120 million children between the ages of five and 12 engaged in child labour around the world. “This is a staggering figure when one thinks of the implications of such acts on the development of these young ones,” she said.
Another organisation, the Action Aid Nigeria revealed that 75 per cent of girls in Nigeria were married off before the age of 18. The Deputy Country Director of the organisation, Ifeoma Charles-Monwuba, disclosed this at a two-day conference on the “Social Protection of the girl-child.’’
Charles-Monwuba said 100 million girls in the country stand the risk of early marriage within the next decade, if the trend continues.
Relating the issue on the International Perspective on Child Marriage, she said education remained the key to stopping early marriage.
According to her, girls married off early often failed to maximise their potentials in life, as they ended up confined to carrying out domestic chores and at risk of life threatening diseases.
The deputy director stressed that children, especially the girl-child, deserved the right to education and all other human rights.
“To ensure that girls are kept in school there are international instruments required for children which includes; universal declaration of human rights, right to education, ensuring an inclusive, equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.
“According to UN Population Council of 2013, 75 per cent of girls in Nigeria get married before they attain the age of 18.
“100 million girls under the age of 18 will marry in the next decade if the current trend continues,” she said.
The Deputy Director added that there were societal misconceptions that had contributed to teenage girls dropping out of school.
She said some of the odds faced by the girl child when married off early in life include “the higher risk of physical and emotional violence.
“The girl-child will be faced with Vesico-vaginal Fistula disease and she is confined to domestic chores because she is not allowed to make decisions in the family.”
She recommended that equal rights among girls and boys should be promoted as well as quality free inclusive public education for both sexes in the country.
“We need to improve education budget, promote gender responsive schools, and encourage re-entry policy for the reintegration of young mothers without stigma.
“We also need to have sanctions on people that marry under-aged girls,” Ms. Charles-Monwuba said.
United Nations Children’s Funds, UNICEF, in its contributions, said investment in girls’ education and getting more girls’ into school delays marriage and impacts the incidence of child marriage.
UNICEF believes that child marriage denies children the attainment of their human rights as children. It erodes the child’s rights to life, good health, education and dignity.
The UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Jean Gough, said that “Girls’ Education is vital because educated girls become better mothers, have fewer and healthier children and more empowered. An educated girl will have a better life, as will her family. Every additional year of schooling delays age at marriage.”
It also revealed that the Girls’ Education Project, funded by the UK’s Department of International Development, DFID, and implemented by UNICEF, aims to get 1 million more girls into school by 2020, while at the same improving the quality of education.
“Getting girls into schooling, and to remain in school is particularly important in a country where 10.5 million children are out of school, and more than 60 per cent of them are girls. It is a win for everybody and has an impact on child marriage,” said Jean Gough.
Speaking on the issue of child marriage, the wife of the Nigerian President, Hajiya Aisha Buhari promised to advocate publicly for legislation against child marriage.
She encouraged parents to keep their daughters in school for at least 12 years. “No single girl will be left behind in my movement to get every girl into school.
The 2013 National Demographic Health Survey indicated that there were about 20 million adolescent girls in Nigeria and there is very low education rates among them, especially those in the lowest wealth quintiles in the society. In Nigeria 60 per cent of the 10.5 million children out of school are girls.
Data indicates that among other factors one reason for low enrolment and retention of girls in schools especially in the north is the lack of female teachers in the rural areas.
UNICEF therefore revealed that for any meaningful progress to be made, adolescent girls should be empowered through deliberate policies to transform their lives and those around them.
Young girls who are educated are better placed to improve their own and their children’s health and chances of survival, and boost their work prospects.

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