Insurgency and child labour in Maiduguri By Hauwa Yahi

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Child labour has been on the increase in the Boko Haram ravaged Maiduguri, capital of Borno state in northwestern part of the country. Child labour, according to UNICEF, is work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally harmful to children and deprives them of opportunity for schooling and development. Investigations have shown that children within the ages of seven and fifteen are engaged in street hawking and domestic works for long hours. This is attributed to the high level of poverty, which makes parents unable to provide basic needs for their children.
In Maiduguri, the insurgency have displaced thousands of families from their homes and households, rendering most of them jobless. That has increased the rate of poverty in the state, forcing vulnerable children into the labour market. Worst of all, the children are being exploited, not only by factory owners and business people, but also by beggars on the streets and at strategic locations.
Mohammed Baba, an eight-year old boy who leads an elderly blind man to beg on the streets of Maiduguri and other locations like the university gate, hospitals, markets and other places within the metropolis, said that the man was not his parents. He lost his parents to the insurgency so he resorted to begging on the streets with the blind man, whom after a long day of begging, will give the boy his own little share of the money made.
The children now hawk and beg on the streets while their lucky peers go to school. This could cause depression and psychological harm to these children. They could also be exposed to kidnapping and death resulting from suicide bombings.
There have been reports of children like Mohammed who are forcefully taken away or lured by the insurgents into following them. The youngsters are usually indoctrinated by the insurgents and used as suicide bombers.
There is urgent need for government to enforce laws on child labour in order to stem this ugly tide. Victims of child labour need empathy and support from security agencies, NGOs, and sundry. All parents and well meaning Nigerians must all come together to reduce the high rate of child labour in the distressed state.
Yahi wrote in from the Department of Mass Communication, University of Maiduguri


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