Of Child Labour, Unemployment And A Future Not Guranteed By Terinwa Adesipo

One thing has remained invariable, perhaps now a hallmark of human existence, it is that which many has dubbed social injustice. Despite this sad realism, it becomes really disheartening to know that this injustice will continue to be a part and parcel of humanity until the end of time. Better put, we must begin to accept the bitter truth that absolute social justice can never be truly attained in our lifetime. First off, the real reason for this, which is purely synthetic, is that disgracefully displayed in man’s cupidity and cruelty. The other reason, which is a fact of life is that probably best expressed in the popular adage that wisely uttered that “all fingers are not equal”. Whilst the former has succeeded in contributing manifold woes to our world, such as penury and privation, the latter only seeks to remind us, just as Cowper attempted, that variety is the very spice of life. That is, we all have different reasons to which we all exist. Such illustration which is, therefore, true of human fingers is also aptly true of humanity. 

But as against this establishment, what many have always attempted to do for most of man’s history is to needlessly accumulate for themselves what can be used to fend for others, this has thereby occasioned many synthetic issues and problems for the human race. In the history of human existence, nothing begets bitterness, breeds hate, bespeaks burden, and has brought catastrophic misfortune to many societies than the inseparable woes of poverty, unemployment and hunger. In a world where the richest 1% possesses a wealth that equals that of half of the entire population, such menace such as poverty, oppression and inhumanity cannot be more patent and celebrated.

To begin with, current realism makes it apparent that such bitter consequence of social injustice remains even more brutal and endemic in third world countries such as Nigeria. According to a 2018 report by the World poverty clock, Nigeria is officially the World poverty capital of the world. Furthermore, this same statistics revealed such distasteful realism that 90.8 million Nigerians live in abject poverty, one which amounts to 46.4% poverty-ridden Nigerian population To add insult to this injury, The National Bureau of Statistics (N.B.S) 2019 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (M.I.C.S) further observed that 50.8% of the Nigerian children aged between 5-17 are enslaved by Child Labour. 

In a world where diverse nations are now fiercely battling such unfair treatment of its young population whilst also religiously meting out deterring sanctions for the commission of any of such act, the same cannot be said of a country like a Nigeria where this wonderful set of persons are the greatest victims of this menace of social injustice.

Based on a Child Labour Fact sheet which was produced by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, Nigeria (UNICEF-Nigeria) in 2009, the young child in Nigeria is subjected to manifold unfair treatment. According to the statistics, it was observed that 64% of Children in Nigeria are street vendors, 13% are beggars, 17% are bus conductors, 5% scavengers, just to mention a few. Surely, we need not be further told that our domain is Hell on Earth for the young and yearning.

Surely, this would not be the first time where burning issues like this are brought to the front burner, neither is what will be proposed in this piece a definite solution to the woes that bedevils the Nigerian Child, Far from it. This is only a manifestation of the belief that although there can no perfect solution to the problems of humanity, we must at the same time always and continually strive to correct the many deficiency that has hijacked the process of human progress. 

Before delving into the merits of my proposition, it is apt to establish the unbreakable nexus that exist between poverty, unemployment and child labour. From a deep observation, it can be said with clear justification that this trio are dependent on one another; that is Unemployment breeds poverty, one which in turns breeds child labour. 

With this in mind, it is only logical to attempt to battle this giant monster that threatens human society from its root cause, which is unemployment. Perhaps, it was to this knowledge that Voltaire rightly said that work saves us from three great evil, boredom, vice and need. Hence, child labour cannot be successfully tackled without first waging a war on unemployment and poverty, since they are all brothers-in-arms. To successfully battle the menace of unemployment in the Nigerian society, there must firstly be in place a reliable source of generating income for people who are job deprived, but this is not possible via sharing and distributing certain paltry amounts into the account of those considered to be the poorest families in the society monthly but rather via the creation of industries as well as through infrastructural development. What does this connote? 

The incontrovertible reality that Nigeria as a country is diversely blessed and uncommonly endowed with the blessings of natural and human resources has ordinarily given us an edge in the war against this menace. Hence, it is high time we tapped into those wealth of natural and human resources at our disposal. Whilst natural resources such as Coal, Limestone, Bitumen among many others are just a side of the coin, such blessing of fertile land is another indispensable means to attaining this feat. On this note, industries must essentially be created in various sectors to not only provide jobs for the unemployed but also as a means of reviving the dying Nigeria economy. Also, this will also go a long way in reducing the menace of brain drain which has greatly contributed and created many woes that currently bedevils the country. 

Of course, it should be noted that while the creation of industries is a great idea, the beauty of such idea cannot be realistically felt until this industries are rightly and aptly endowed with the necessary resources to deliver tasks productively and profitably. In this light, equipments and facilities which make work faster and easier must be provided to boost outputs, thereby resulting in better profits and income. Essentially, such task of creating industries must not and never be primarily left in the hands of the Federal or state government but majorly to the local governments. With this plan in place, Local government authorities can easily be held accountable for the unemployment of its people. If wholly left in the hands of the Federal government, not only will such task be too cumbersome, such idea will be realistically sterile as their will be no such thing as responsibility and accountability. 

Concretely, at the heart of industrialization is also infrastructural development. With this, there must essentially be a blueprint in place to develop manifold infrastructure which will resultantly boost the country’s economic growth. Such essential sectors are power, energy, transportation, agriculture among many others. In addition, it should be noted that much investment should be channeled into the agricultural, power and technological sector. Whilst the agricultural sector will help boost food produce which can feed the people of the nation and technological advancement help ensure a rapid development, power remains the only unshakable foundation on which the achievement of both is possible. Since technology is the Lord of this era, it becomes greatly impossible for any nation to progress without courting and promoting research and development in this area. 

Agriculture on the other hand is indisputably one of the many indispensable blessings of nature.  Therefore, any country that rightfully utilizes its great potential will not only effortlessly but also speedily attain economic growth and stability. On this note, poverty as well as unemployment can furthermore be alleviated in Nigeria when there are such investment funds for farmers. This will help to enable and empower those who are financially deficient to boost their agricultural productivity and output. This scheme will fully help to ensure that those who do not possess the required finance to manifest their agricultural idea, be it crop farming, fish farming or poultry farming among many others have access to loans for funds and agricultural implements or resources needed. 

At bottom, not everyone can be employed by the government. To this end, certain effective policies must be in place to strengthen sole proprietorship business. This will, therefore, help to lessen the burden of unemployment in the country. In doing this, the government should further create empowerment programmes for persons who are interested in a particular trade or skill. Such programme must essentially include entrepreneurship trainings and education. After this training, the government should make available such loan scheme with a business friendly interest for those who lack the capital to bring alive their business plans or ideas. 

In instances of skills, what would be advisable would be to purchase such tools or equipments needed rather than provide them with a loan which they might end up not channeling into the business. This will help to lessen such distasteful circumstances where money lent to this category of person are wasted or spent on other barren purposes. In circumstances where monies are lent to individuals for businesses, the government must reasonably monitor the progress of such business. 

There is no gainsaying that a nation without any accurate record of its population can never fulfill its existential mandate. Sadly, Nigeria exists in the hall of fame of countries which has no accurate record of its population. What we have always done all these years has been to rely on inaccurate figures and statistics. Any attempt to, therefore, tackle this menace of poverty and unemployment cannot be feasible in such a setting. That is, even when industries are built and individuals empowered, it won’t be long before those industries are abandoned in the red and ultimately crumble.  This would greatly be attributed to the non-productivity of such industries since those who will earn salaries would be ghosts’ workers and unborn children. To this end, there must essentially be a coherently recorded bio-data for every citizen of the country. Furthermore, this will provide the government with an accurate record of persons who are of employable age, thereby making the task of job creation easier.

Equally important to alleviating poverty in the country is a population control system. Noting such high rate at which the country’s population increases as well as the current brobdinagian population of the country, it might be not only be necessary but also compelling to introduce and religiously enforce a population control system. This would thereby help to lessen the unnecessary increase in the population rate of the country, hence preventing such circumstances where those who do not have the resources as well as financial power to take care of more than a specified number of children are restricted from further given birth. 

Although this might be herculean, noting fully well the inherent polygamous nature of certain tribes in Nigeria, it should be noted that this is the only way in which such innocent infants can be shielded from the woes of poverty and suffering which they are exposed to almost immediately after birth. In addition to this, the government can do well to alleviate poverty and homelessness by providing and constructing low-cost housing estates for low and middle-income earners. Such payment for the ownership of the house can be based on an agreed monthly deduction from those worker\s salary.

War is not won based on might alone. Far from it. Success in the battlefield indispensably requires potent and effective stratagem as a foundation. That is, progress and prosperity will continue to remain a fantasy in Nigeria, so long as the malady of Child labour still exist unfettered in our terrain. Or how do we secure a beautiful tomorrow when today is in shatters? Impossible! Hence, the menace of Child labour must be addressed before we can ever get a whiff of prosperity here in Nigeria. How then can this be achieved?

It has been wisely observed that “Education is not just a preparation for life, but life itself”. Better put, education is the life blood of any progressive individual or nation. In this light, it becomes impossible for an individual or nation to attain progress in this current age without being fully armed with the indispensable weapon of education. But the history of life development for the last half-century makes it apparent that the gains of education does not come without its own pain. In this time and age, this pain can only be soothed and palliated with monetary medicine, one which is quite exorbitant for the low and middle-income earners to afford.

One of the product of manifold attempts to ensure that this basic amenity of existence is enjoyed by all and sundry lead to the birth of such concept as Public Educational institutions popularly called Public or government schools. But a deep observation of current realism evidently shows that the public educational system in Nigeria is nothing to write home about. Whilst on the one hand, the exorbitant fee of Private Educational institutions has forced many young child whose parent cannot afford such pretty penny to the street, on the other hand, the failed structure and system of the publicly funded educational institution has discouraged many parents from sending their children to school, thereby resulting in manifold cases of child labour. 

In such circumstances where the children cannot afford to go to school, whether indebted to the exorbitant fees or due to the discouraging model of publicly funded institutions, diverse parents have sent their wards to the street to hawk in broad daylight when they ought to be in the classrooms. This is both a resultant effect of poverty as well as an epileptic educational system. Therefore, to successfully battle this menace of child labour in Nigeria, there must foundationally be an establishment and re-establishment of not just free but also qualitative educational institutions. On this note, those children whose parent cannot afford to send them to school due to the exorbitant fees would not be denied the opportunity to progress and enjoy this indispensable amenity of life. 

But this does not means that only the government can make this dream a reality, non-governmental organization can also step in to reduce the burden on the government by either providing scholarships to students or establishing free educational institutions. To further achieve this, the Corporate Social responsibility of companies can also be majorly channeled towards this direction. That is, companies should be somewhat advised to carry out their CSR in the aspect of education, one which can then be done through providing scholarships to students, donating and gifting educational facilities and equipments to public educational schools among many others ways they can help to ensure a qualitative education for the average Nigerian child. 

In fully achieving this, “basic” education must be legally founded, clothed and constitutionally established as a fundamental Right. As opposed to the current status of a non-enforceable right as provided for in Chapter 2 of the Nigerian Constitution, the right to basic education must be unequivocally defined and strongly established as an enforceable and justifiable right. 

Concretely, it is the apex time when such archaic and unhelpful mentality of compulsory classroom education for every child must be abandoned in Nigeria, it is high time we waved goodbye to such believed that those who cannot easily cope with classrooms works are nothing but dullards and that those who are obsessed or involved with vocational training are nothing but empty heads. From a deep observation, many children who are victims of child labour are those who are either labeled dullards by their teachers or parents because their classroom grades are woeful. To this end, they are pushed out to the streets to face such harsh reality of life which they wrongly believe is befitting for “unintelligent ” kids like them.  At this juncture, we must take guidance from the wise dictum of Albert Einstein, the great Physics theorist who once intoned that “if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid” 

On this note, those children whose delight do not lay in classroom subjects such as mathematics or any other classroom course but vocational skills should be provided with vocational trainings. This will help them to achieve and fulfill their existential mandate rather than resorting to hard labours. In this equation, Standard, equipped and free vocational institutions must be created in all local government areas of the country. With this, those whose forte do not lay in classroom works can also attain success in the race of life. 

One sacred remark must be made here, which is that nothing can fully succeed without the foundation of the law. On this note, there must be an effective and enforceable legal instrument which on the one hand sanctions child labour and underage employment in Nigeria and also another which sanctions any parent or guardian who denies the child his or her right to be educated. This can simply be effectively done by reforming the Child Rights Act. Since the real McCoy problem of laws in Nigeria is always that of enforcement, it might be apt to create a special law enforcement agency specially behooved with the enforcement of these laws. But this sanctions cannot be meted until the many hurdles which barricades a child from qualitative education are destroyed. Αs far as I am concerned, a qualitative free basic education is possible in Nigeria.

As earlier stated, there can be no perfect solution to the many problems that bedevils human existence, but this does not mean that we must unfoundedly rebuff any idea that offers itself as a possible solution. Truly, Child Labour just like its relative, Poverty and unemployment cannot be fully exterminated but it can at least be reduced in a way that is as good as dead. It is therefore high time such threatening issues of unemployment, poverty and child labour is tamed in Nigeria before they transmogrify into a monstrous tiger that will consume the entire nation. It was the Polemic Bernard Shaw, who once intoned that “some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not”. But we must not only see things as they never were, we must also get the show on the road. This is because a just world is good for us all.


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