Child street hawking is one of the main forms of child labour. Others include children working at building sites or on farms. Nigeria’s population is estimated at 183 million with about 50% below the age of 18. Children are regarded as sources of joy, blessings and prosperity to their family. In some parts of Nigeria, couples who do not have children are often discriminated against, and face abuse for their barrenness; without having children their wealth and accomplishments are regarded worthless. The issue of child labour cannot be ignored. Nigeria currently has the highest number of out of school children in the world, and it is clear why.
Unemployment and poverty are the major causes of child hawking. These children are mostly seen at motor parks, streets and road sides under the harsh weather with blistered feet’s while their mates are in classrooms attaining formal education. This spells out the gap between the rich and the poor. While others are desperate for the fruits of the womb, others give birth to many, and catering for these children becomes very difficult for them, which result to the older once to go into street hawking. Some of these children who hawk save what they earn and give some to their parents. Others say hawking and doing menial jobs helps them provide shoes and clothes for themselves.
To help control and reduce the number of street hawkers in Nigeria, parents should be enlightened on the concept of child labour, its social, emotional and psychological effects and detrimental consequences. Child hawkers who are employed as sales girls or boys usually receive little or very low wages or may not be paid in cash, but are usually forced to replace or pay for items lost during hawking by their masters or mistresses. All these expose children to emotional health problems, sexual molestation with its sexual transmitted infections, kidnapping, trafficking, injuries, malnutrition and body pains. Do we even wonder where some of these children sleep? Some children hawk at night which exposes them to violence, molestation and abuse. Some children learn and exhibit street like behaviors as a result of their consistent exposure to street life. If poverty and family size is a major cause of child labor, the children should be protected before they are born. When children are not well cared for, the get expose to negativity and become a nuisance to society which is not good for everyone.
Despite the emotional trauma and physical dangers these vulnerable children face, little is being done to protect them or to discourage such practices. Every child deserves the right to education, care and peaceful assembly. It is necessary to secure a better future for children, the government needs to enforce labour regulations for children street vendors and support them with free and compulsory education so they have an alternative. When children are cared for and well trained they will definitely function well in the society.
Lydia Yusuf Gwani,
Mass Communication Department,
University of Maiduguri