In this article, we take a look at some of the major effects/impacts of child labor in Nigeria.
The history of child labor in Nigeria is long and, in some cases, unsavory. It dates back to the founding of the Nigerian state. Traditionally, most children, except for the privileged few, had always worked – either for their parents or for an outside employer. Through the years, child labor practices have changed – and so have the benefits and risks associated with employment of children in Nigeria.
Although child labor has been in existence through history, the difficult conditions under which children work occasionally has become more evident. Especially, in most developing countries due to rapid population growth, high rates of unemployment, inflation, poverty, malnutrition, bad leadership, corruption and low wages.
Apparently aware of the dangers of child labors, the United Nations General Assembly on November 20, 1989 came out with a convention on the Rights of a Child, which 198 countries including Nigeria endorsed. Child labor remains a major source of concern in Nigeria, in spite of legislative measures taken by the government at various levels. In 1998, the international labor organization (ILO) estimated that 24.6 percent of children between the ages 10-14 in Nigeria were working. Indeed, it is a ridiculous sight in most big cities, as well as rural villages today, to see children of school age, trading food on the streets, herding animals, tanning and drying raw leather products, fetching water for commercial purposes, washing dishes at restaurants, serving as domestic hands, selling wares at kiosks, collecting firewood for business, harvesting crops in family farms or commercial plantations, amongst other activities
Working children are the epitome of abuse and exploitation. They are often the victims of their employers and sometimes, even their parents. A childhood earmarked by nature for fun and frolic, schooling, education and enlightenment, is ruined by the compulsion to earn money. In some cases, they are render crippled, unhealthy, an, most importantly, uneducated. This will lead to low productivity. Many child laborers will have died before reaching the age of 18, and not even have made any impact on the world’s future. Others who live long enough certainly affect the world’s economy – in a bad way – because job positions that require an education may go unfilled.
Children laborer are regarded as “street children” or “children of the street” who run away from parental or guardian abuse, leaving them to eke out a living on their own. This name ‘street children’ paralyzed them from thinking ahead thus rendering them economically useless and hopeless. Most times they go through physical and health consequences such as respiratory problems, injuries accidents, physical and sexual abuse such as rape and molestation, malnourishment, extortion of income, police harassment, and participation in harmful or delinquent activities. In other studies, child laborers face robbery, inadequate sleep due to fatigue and long hours on the job, and confinement in juvenile homes.
Effects of child labor can be grouped the consequences of street hawking by children into four, namely: Physical, Psychological, Social, and academic.
These include accidents, spread of communicable diseases, food poisoning and traffic congestion. Child street hawkers spend most of their time outside the home in a bid to sell their wares. They do not only hawk during the early mornings but at night and during harsh weather.
Although some people believe that street hawking prepares the children for adult roles, this belief does not take cognizance of the fact that the juvenile hawkers on the street are exposed to numerous hazards ranging from physical violence to loss of wares, risk of accident, robbery, kidnapping and even murder for ritual purposes. They are exposed to vagaries of weather (extremes of cold or heat), to insects and reptiles bites, to hunger and deprivation. The most troubling, perhaps, is the fact that some are sexually exploited and forced into prostitution with the risk of unwanted pregnancies and contracting sexually transmitted infections (including HIV).
Indeed, child labour has far-reaching physical effects/consequences on the children. These range from malnourishment, disease, musculoskeletal disorders from heavy labor, physical and sexual abuse. Child labor can result into bodily injuries to the children and expose them to toxic agents in the process.
These include: stress, fatigue, depression, anger and resultant ills. Some of the hawkers are welcomed home with battering by their parents or caretakers when they could not make profit from their wares or when they could not finish selling their wares. These, and other forms of abuse, affect the child psychologically. Consequently, these children tend to show behavioral problems, low self-esteem withdrawal syndrome, oppositional behavior and learning difficulties. Most times they suffer from mental related sickness such as; stigmatization from the press and public, feelings of disheartenment, stress and irritability, personality disorders and anti-social behavior, and alienation and isolation from their family.
These include unwanted pregnancies, prostitution, smoking, robbery, truancy and poor academic performance among others. Child labor does not endanger only the lives of the hawkers, but also the food hawked and the consumer society at large. Contamination can occur from indiscriminate exposure of food items to air, dust, flies and dirt.
Above all, hawking affects academic performance of the children. Most of the hawkers who hawk in the morning hours before going to school are perpetual latecomers to school. They are unable to concentrate in class work due to fatigue and stress. These result to poor academic performance, delinquency and truant behavior.
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