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Child labour, street-hawking: Who’s to blame?

The menace of child labour which often culminates in street- hawking and other odd jobs is still here with us despite several efforts being made to curb it; KEHINDE OSASONA writes.

Backdrop

It has been observed by experts that fighting child labour has been somewhat herculean, but that the level of awareness and activism on its prevention globally has again raised questions on the implementation or otherwise of the Child Rights Act, which was signed into law in Nigeria in 2009.

Experts had at different times insisted that child labour, street-hawking and all forms of odd job that children are subjected to in their early lives often lead to dysfunctional and maladjusted adults, who may grow up without having adequate social interaction and playtime.

Not only that, they also deduced that such a child or such children could also battle with psychological, emotional distress and low self-esteem for the rest of their lives.

Africa and Asia and the Pacific regions put together are responsible for about nine out of every ten children in child labour worldwide, while the rest of child labour according to another report are then divided among the Americas, which has 11 million, Europe and Central Asia with six million, and the Arab States with one million.

It stated further that where incidence is concerned, five per cent of children are in child labour in the Americas, four per cent in Europe and Central Asia, and three per cent in the Arab States.

More worrisome statistics

Although the World Day Against Child Labour is commemorated annually on June 12 to raise awareness, the UN recent report has it that about 152 million children worldwide still engage in child labour just as many have dropped out of school to help their parents earn a living via hawking and other means of survival not befitting school-age children.

More worrisome is the fact that a UNICEF 2022 report stated that at least 20.1 million children are out of school in Nigeria, making it the second-highest out-of-school rate in the world.

Another report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) indicates that over 24 million Nigerian children between the ages of five and 17 are involved in child labour.

Many of these children are engaged in economic activities or hazardous work which include quarrying, mining, processing minerals, cottage industries, crafts, and construction, hawking and domestic work and so on.

It has also been argued by sociologists that several dangers children face when out working in the streets make them easy preys for violence and traffickers.

Furthermore, these children, they feared, are at risk of being indoctrinated against the society and used as child soldiers or worse, killed. According to the UNICEF, no fewer than 3,500 Nigerian child soldiers were enlisted between 2013 and 2017.

While some children loiter around bustling streets and remote corners of the country on a daily basis, for instance, countless numbers of others globally toil under oppressive conditions, robbed of their childhood and denied their right to education.

Amidst the tale of woes trailing the menace, a 2021 International Labour Organisation (ILO) and UNICEF records indicated some progress which were made significantly in reducing child labour in the last two decades.

The reports put the number of children engaged in child labour at 85.5 million between 2000 and 2020, from 16 per cent to 9.6 per cent, a figure described as cheery news.

However, some experts insisted that there is no jubilation yet, arguing that if the NBS report is anything to go by, then the worst prevalence is still with us in Nigeria, with Yobe and Cross River states being the worst hit.

Whose fault?

Associations and non-governmental organisations had in the past carried campaigns against child labour and street-hawking which, according to them, has remained subtle ways of luring girls for rape purposes.

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