Part 1: Child Labour, Abduction and Sale
Every child must be protected against all forms of exploitation, indecent or degrading treatment, including child labour, abduction and sale.
What Does This Mean?
Exploiting the labour of a child means employing a person below the age of 15 years and paying him/her less than the minimum standard wage. In general, child labour is harmful to the physical, mental social and educational interest of a child.
In most countries in the world, there are labour laws, which prohibit the employment of children under the age of 15. Nevertheless, millions of children all over Africa, between the ages of 4 and 15 have no choice. They have to work to earn some extra income for themselves and their families.
In Nigeria, where a loaf of bread costs between 20 and 50 naira and over 30% of the population makes less than 100 naira a day, the low income has forced many families to withdraw their children from school and send them into the labour market. Young people in the workforce are often exposed to violence, abuse and untold hardship. However, the worst aspect of child labour is that it often mean the end of a child’s formal education
A more deplorable situation is one in which children are sold or employed as domestic servants. These children may likely suffer from extreme physical abuse and degradation, working very long hours at strenuous jobs, with no free time and no opportunity for education or leisure. The actual number of children employed as domestic servants in Nigeria is unknown, but given the large number of families living below poverty line, one can guess that the number of children seeking any opportunity to earn some money must be quite high.
The Bad News
- There are over 240 million children between the ages of 4 and 15 working in developing countries.
- In S.E. Asia, there are 150 million children (age 5-14 years) in the labour force.
- In Nigeria, 22 million children under the age of 15 are in the workforce.
- One out of three children in Lagos earn some money as street hawkers
- In Zaria, from a headcount of 4591 beggars, 3072 were children.
The Good News
The laws are on the side of children in Nigeria (Labour Decree no 21 of 1974):
- No child below the age of 18 can be employed in any capacity except by his parents for light domestic or agricultural duties.
- No child under the age of 15 can be employed in a factory.
- No child shall be employed in job, which is hazardous to his/her health or is dangerous of immoral.
- No child under the age of 16 shall be required to work for longer than 4 consecutive hours, or longer than 8 hours in a day.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
- Why is hawking a hazardous job for a young person, especially young girls?
- Why are children who are employed as domestic servants often called the “invisible workforce”?
- What is one of the main reasons why children are withdrawn from school and put in the workforce?
MESSAGE TO GOVERNMENT
- Enforce the existing laws which protects children from being exploited in the labour market.
- Stop the sale, abduction and trafficking in children.
- Prohibit the use of children in all forms of begging.
- Prosecute those who violate the child labour law.
- Children are sometimes abducted and used for ritual murders; how can the government prevent such terrible crimes?
- How can government prevent people from using young children as domestic servants/slaves?
MESSAGES TO PARENTS
- Protect your children and ward from child abuse, especially hawking or street trading.
- Do not use your children to beg for alms.
- Do not use cruel or unusual punishment to discipline your child
- Monitor your children and protect them from drug abuse.
- What can be done to stop young people from trading on the streets?
- How can parents ensure that their children do not use harmful drugs?
- What is the best way to discipline a badly behaved child?
MESSAGE TO CHILDREN
Ellie was delighted when she heard that her cousin Josephine was coming to live with them and to go to secondary school in Uyo. But her happiness was short-lived when she saw the way her mother had turned Josie into her personal servant. It was “Josephine, press my dress…Josephine, bring me a cup of tea…Josephine!” Josephine never had a moment to herself, but she was too shy to say anything, having being brought up in the strict tradition of serving her elders without questions.
Ellie, however, was upset by this turn of events and decided she had to speak to her mother about it. “Secondary school for Josephine?” Mrs. Etuk looked up from her latest fashion magazine, “What for? She is just a bush girl… do you think your father can waste his money to educate such a dullard?”
Ellie could not believe her ears. “Josephine is not a dullard, Mum. She passed her primary six exams very well…”
“As far as I am concerned the matter is closed.” “It’s just not fair,” Ellie protested, “You promised Aunty Comfort you would see to her schooling.”
“Ellie, Ellie wake up! I know you love your cousin, but Josephine is just a country bumpkin, an ordinary bush girl. She cannot rise above her roots. All her mother wants is for her to get a job, and she has one.”
“Who cannot rise above her roots?” Mr. Etuk strolled into the sitting room, with several morning newspapers tucked under his arm. “Oh nothing dear. We are just chatting about girl things.” Mrs. Etuk blushed and returned to the magazine she was reading.
Ellie saw this as a window of opportunity to put things right. “Yes,” said Ellie very innocently. “Mummy was trying to explain to me that Josephine does not need to go to secondary school, because she is just a bush girl that she cannot cope with secondary school.” “What…?” Mr. Etuk looked at his wife. “Well, you can thank your lucky stars that I did not hold such an opinion of you when I dragged you out of that wretched village 20 years ago and married you”.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
- What does the expression “rise above one’s roots” mean?
- What does the term “country bumpkin” mean?
- Was Mrs. Etuk being fair to her niece?
- What action do you think Mr. Etuk will take?
- What can be done to stop the exploitation of the labour of children?