20 Million Nigerian Children are Victims of Child Labour

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ABUJA, Nigeria- The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defined child labour as, “Work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and which is harmful to physical and mental development.”

This refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; interferes with their schooling by depriving them of the opportunity to attend school; obliging them to leave school prematurely; or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.”

The ILO further explains that the most extreme forms of child labour involves children being enslaved, separated from their families, exposed to serious hazards and illnesses and/or left to fend for themselves on the streets of large cities mostly at a very early age.

Despite several measures to combat child labour, it continues to remain a great concern in Nigeria. The Nigerian Child’s Rights law, which took into account the rights guaranteed in the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child was passed in 2003. Ten years after being incorporated into Nigerian law, the child labour situation has worsened as millions of children are still engaged in child labour activities.

According to the International Labour Organization, the number of working children under the age of 14 in Nigeria is estimated at 15 million. The high level of diverse and tedious jobs that children execute in dangerous circumstances is particularly worrying. These jobs include street vending, begging, washing cars or shining shoes. Other children work as apprentice mechanics, hairdressers and bus conductors while an even larger number work as domestic servants and farm hands.

Research also shows that child workers display poor educational achievements. Girls start working at an earlier age than boys, particularly in the rural areas. They also suffer the triple burden of housework, school work and work out of home whether paid or unpaid. One of the most common practices is the use of children as child domestics –especially girls.

Major causes of child labour are widespread poverty, rapid urbanization, breakdown in extended family affiliations, high school dropout rates, and lack of enforcement of legal instruments meant to protect children. Traditionally, children have worked with their families, but today children are forced to work for their own and their family’s survival. The money earned by child family members has become a significant part of poor families’ income.

These children suffer from fatigue, irregular attendance at school, lack of comprehension and motivation, improper socialization, exposure to risk of sexual abuse and high likelihood of being involved in crime.

In line with this, the ILO estimates that about 25%of Nigeria’s 80 million children under the age of 14 are involved in child labour. Also, recently the CNN world’s child labour index featured Nigeria amongst the top ten worst countries for child labour.

Against this background, NOI Polls conducted its special edition poll on Child labour/slavery in Nigeria to explore the views of Nigerians on the prevalence of the issue, as well as identify the causes and remedies that can help curb the situation. NOI Polls Limited is the No.1 for country specific polling services in West Africa, which works in technical partnership with the Gallup Organisation (USA), to conduct periodic opinion polls and studies on various socio-economic and political issues in Nigeria.

Further analysis across geo-political zones revealed that the North-west zone (83%) had the highest number of respondents that said there is a high prevalence of child labour in Nigeria; followed by the South-west zone and the South-east zone with 81% and 80% respectively. In addition, the North-central zone (19%) had the highest number of respondents that said child labour is moderately prevalent.

Findings also revealed that the most common type of job which children are usually seen engaged in are “Street hawking” (68%) and Street begging/roaming (31%).

Finally, to identify measures that could help tame the trend in Nigeria, respondents were asked to suggest how to eradicate or reduce child labour to the barest minimum in Nigeria

The responses on measures for eradicating child labour in Nigeria further support UNICEF’s approach to eradicating child labour in the world, which involves “improving the quality of education, preventing violence in homes and schools, addressing poverty and inequality and changing the cultural acceptance of child labour in communities so that all children can enjoy the kind of childhood parents everywhere aspire to provide”

Furthermore, other suggestions that were given include the “creation of awareness on family planning, child labour and education” indicated by 18% of respondents; “law enforcement on child labour, child rights and child bearing” suggested by 5% of respondents, and the provision of basic infrastructure/amenities” as suggested by another (5%).

Analysis from the geo-political zones’ standpoint showed that Nigerians who are advocating for “free and compulsory basic education” were from the South-East (39%) and the North-East (38%) zones. In addition, the South-South zone (37%) accounts for the highest proportion of respondents that suggested “creation of more job opportunities” while the South-West zone (25%) had more respondents that advised the “creation of poverty eradication programmes; youth empowerment schemes”.

It is key to note that during the survey; quite a number of terminated calls were recorded. This was simply because some respondents were afraid that NOI Polls was a regulatory body calling to identify culprits of this social menace. Thus, in the campaign against child labour in Nigeria there’s need for a revitalization of all key stakeholders, and the adoption of holistic measures that would take into account the root causes of child labour.

In addition, an increased commitment by policy makers and stakeholders to eradicate child labour in our society is highly recommended. Their strategies for combating this menace should also be aligned with those of international organizations such as UNICEF, ILO, who have consistently shown keen commitment to combating child labour all over the world.

– Dickson Salami Adama

Sources: Business Day, My Daily News, Information Nigeria, UNICEF
Photo: Polemic & Paradox

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