The recent report that about 152 million children are still trapped in child labour worldwide is alarming. It is also worrisome that with about six years to the 2025 deadline to end the menace globally, the problem is yet to abate. As a result of the development, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) recently urged Nigeria and other member countries to hasten the pace of meeting the 2025 deadline for the end of child labour. During this year’s World Day Against Child Labour in Geneva, Switzerland, the ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, revealed that “73 million of these children, almost half, are in hazardous work.”
We bemoan the increasing cases of child labour and call on governments the world over, their relevant agencies saddled with the responsibilities of ensuring the well-being and development of children to rise to the occasion and do the needful to reverse the damning statistics on child labour.
The situation in Nigeria is even more lamentable considering the fact that we have more than our fair share of the total number of the global child labour. Nigeria, for example, was specifically indicted of perpetrating child labour at the 106th International Labour Convention in 2017.
Sadly, the situation has not significantly changed with increasing threats to livelihood and peaceful living in the country due largely to insecurity. The Federal and State governments should come up with pragmatic measures to end child labour in the country before the 2025 deadline. There is need to ensure that all Nigerian children have access to basic education.
We commend the ILO for raising the alarm. Since inception, ILO has been in the forefront of the campaign to end child labour all over the world. It is encouraging that two of its first six conventions addressed the issue of child labour. It is also good that through “intense advocacy and national mobilization backed by legislative and practical action” the ILO has been able to address the issue of child labour worldwide. Between 2000 and 2016 alone, there has been a 38 per cent reduction in the number of children engaged in child labour globally.
But in Nigeria, child labour may be on the increase due to so many factors. Nigeria’s 10 to 13 million out-of-school children is probably one of the highest in the world. With increasing security challenges across the country, there is no guarantee that the number would not rise. The Almajiri syndrome particularly in the North and some cultural practices in other parts of the country which limit the children’s access to education have not helped matters.
Despite successive governments’ plans to offer free basic education, many Nigerian children are still outside the school system. Most of the nation’s primary schools are in pitiable conditions with dilapidated infrastructure. The same can be said of some of the private primary schools in the country. Government’s lack of political will to fund education can be easily gleaned from the paltry budgetary allocation to the sector over the years.
For a country whose population is expected to reach 411 million by 2050, government should plan ahead to ensure the well-being of all Nigerian children. Government must do something to stop child labour. It breaks the heart to see children of school age hawking on the highways. Many children serve as domestic servants in some of the nation’s urban cities.
The girl child is sexually abused even by people who should care for her. Whereas, the Child Labour Act (1974) prohibits exploitative labour for children, the enforcement of the provisions is the problem. In Nigeria, only a few states, including Anambra, Kaduna and Osun have taken enough measures to reduce the number of children engaged in child labour.
We urge the remaining states to be more decisive in this regard. Since children are the leaders of tomorrow, they should be protected and given the best education. Therefore, let all tiers of government ensure that Nigeria ends child labour by 2025.