Have you witnessed children under the age of 18 earning income as hawkers, street vendors, shoe shiners, apprentice mechanics, carpenters, vulcanizers, tailors, barbers, house girl or boy, office assistants and domestic servants? That is Child Labour for you! Child Labour is the employment of children under the age of 18 in a manner that restrict or prevent them from basic education and development. This is the perspective of the Nigerian Law. Child Labour is pervasive in every state of the country. In 2006, the number of child workers was estimated at about 15 millions (CNN. August 22, 2011).

Poverty has been identified as a major factor that drives Child Labour in Nigeria. In poor families, Child Labour is a large part of income of the family. Many of us passed through same experience in our homes but the experience wouldn’t qualify as Child Labour because it was not done “in a manner that restrict or prevent us from basic education and development”. But many children are not just that lucky! In the bid to help support family income their basic rights to education and proper development are denied them. Incidence of Child Labour in Nigeria is everywhere – rural and urban areas alike.

child abuseThe US Department of Labour in its 2010 report claims Nigeria is witnessing the worst forms of child labor, particularly in agriculture and domestic service. In rural areas, most children work in agriculture of products such as cassava, cocoa and tobacco. These children typically work long hours and for little pay, with their families. The report claims some children are exposed to pesticides and chemical fertilizers in cocoa and tobacco fields because of archaic farming practices or because they are deployed as forced labour without protective gear. Additionally, street children work as porters and scavengers, and a growing number of them engage in begging. The report claims commercial sexual exploitation of children, especially girls, is also occurring in some Nigerian cities, including Port Harcourt and Lagos (Please, see “Country Report – Nigeria” United States Department of Labor. 2011.)

How you get convicted without knowing it.

When you take part in Child Labour, you could be helping build a dangerous future for yourself and the society as these vulnerable kids end up being instruments of destruction and degradation of human values. You could be providing “ready tools” for armed robbers and terror groups who will find them easy to brainwash. You could be peopling the world with men and women lacking love and dignity….

The consequences of Child Labour are numerous and we are all guilty of it. Say NO to Child Labour today. Start with yourself.

This is a child-advocacy piece by Ike Ezugwu.