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Child labour is the work children engage in that hinders their schooling and development. It could also be defined as harmful and strenuous work children engage in. Child labour could be in form of child slavery, child trafficking, forced labour, child bondage, and prostitution, the use of children as drug-carriers, sex objects and for pornography production. In Nigeria, child labour is the employment of a child under the age of 18.There are some works children engage in that does not stand as threats to them but rather as means of survival, learning and development of skills and sense of responsibility. Such works cannot be classified as child labour. They include running errands in the house, helping parents to meet family needs, part-time or weekend jobs to serve as additional source of income.
Poverty is a major cause of child labour. The inability of parents to provide for the house or send their children to school result to them engaging in all sorts of work which is deteriorating to their health, learning and well being. Parents send their children to hawk on highways not minding that they are exposed to the risk of accident, kidnapping and being introduced to social vices ( read an interesting article on social vices here). Children are also now seen in the cold and during school hours looking for means of survival.
This act is common among the illiterates and in rural areas. Parent’s ignorance and illiteracy is another cause of child labour. The preference of educating a male child to educating a female child result to the high number of girls on the streets during school hours(read an interesting article on the importance of educating a female child here). Many parents are ignorant of the consequences of child labour. Also, non availability of schools is another factor. The use of children on the farms is common in the rural areas where there are no or few schools. The available ones are far from the villages. The distance to a nearby school discourages those that have interest in sending their children to school. Parents in this condition have no choice than to use their children as labour on the farms to increase productivity. Children are also used as harvesters and marketers.
Children from broken homes and those also from homes where parents are not available tend to be used as means of labour by other members of the family, society and heartless citizens. Some helpless children who live with relatives are violated and used as object of labour instead of them being in schools. Families in debt use their children as collaterals. These children are used for hard labours and held in hostage till their parents settle their debts. In this kind of situation, some parents forget their children and some may never have the means of settling the debt. These children are taken as slaves, maltreated and denied of their rights and education.
Child abuse affect children’s safety, morals, growth, innocence and majorly their schooling, some are deprived of education. Many lose concentration in schools as they are faced with the challenges of combining school work with other activities, some also drop out of school. This act can be found in all sectors: agriculture as harvesters, entertainment as waitresses and sex workers, mining as miners, domestic works as sex objects, terrorism as carriers of explosives. Some of them are being exploited and used as sources of income. Little wonder there are many children on the streets begging for money. Some are being pushed into the act by some wicked ones in the society. Nigeria is so corrupt that these innocent children are not always paid for their labour. In few cases, shelter and food are only provided. Some become sick with little or no medical attention.
Child labour is associated with many consequences. The physical, social, and mental health of a child is affected. Educational level is impaired. Children who engage in labour do not have access to education, some skip schools while those who have access to education lack concentration in their studies. They perform woefully in their studies and even repeat classes. This is because they are always absent in classes and they find it difficult to handle the stress encountered. Some might sleep off in class and may not learn anything in a day.
Working long hours deprive children from interacting with their peers. They come late to school, sleep in classes and rush out immediately after school hours thus having no time to mingle with their mates. Transfer of knowledge is not being made, learning is inhibited and social relations are being hindered. Children laborers stand the risk of physical and emotional injuries, death, sexual diseases and lots of environmental and industrial haphazard which can make them stop schooling or drop out of school. They are also faced with malnutrition, poor growth, retarded ‘reasoning faculty’ which leads to poor performance in schools. Due to low grades in studies, they may result to examination malpractices in order to make up for their loses and pass their examinations.
Exposure of children to the unsafe and corrupt society makes them to be found in evil and fraudulent practices. Some meet people like them who will introduce them to social vices. They can engage in road side theft, pick pocketing, carrying of harmful equipment like knives. Some work, for instance, military, breweries, terrorism also make them have access to dangerous things, drinks, drugs, weapons like guns and explosives which aid them into higher crimes.
Schools should be made available for everyone and in all places especially in the rural regions. They should also be located in places that are easily accessible to children. Money should not be spent on transportation when going to school. Schools should be close to people in a way that children can trek to and fro. Parents should not be allowed to have excuses for not sending their wards to school. The education system should be free and affordable for the poor. Governments should play their part in this aspect. Parents should be lectured on the need to send their female children to school and be encouraged to do so.
Union bodies, child protection agencies should come together and teach the children on the dangers in what they are doing and the credits associated with schooling. The ones in slavery should be helped and taken care of by orphanage homes. Laws and regulations binding child labour are not fully implemented. There should be laws guiding employment conditions. The working children should be sent to school and replaced with unemployed parents and adults. There should be full sanction on those forcing children into labour or those that engage in child trafficking.