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THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC IMPLICATIONS OF CHILD LABOUR IN UYO METROPOLIS, AKWA IBOM STATE, NIGERIA
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY:
Child labour is a pervasive problem throughout the world especially in developing countries. Child labour is, generally speaking, work for children that harm them or exploit them in some way. In other words, child labour connotes the practices of engaging children in economic activities on part or full time basis. This practice deprives children of their childhood rights and is harmful to their physical, mental, moral, emotional/psychological development or by blocking their access to education. However, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO, 2002), child labour is the engagement of children below 15 years in work or employment on a regular basis with the aim of earning a livelihood for themselves or their families.
Child Labour is most concentrated in Asia and Africa, which together account for more than 90 percent of total child employment. UNICEF estimated about 250 Million children between the ages of 5 and 14 years engaged in child labour worldwide. Though there are more child workers in Asia than anywhere else, a higher percentage of African children participate in the labour force. Recently ILO estimated that 168 million children are in child labour globally, with 85 million in hazardous work (ILO, 2013). Asia is led by India which has 44 million child labourers, giving it the largest child work force in the world. In Pakistan, 10 percent of all workers are between the ages of 10 and 14 years (Weiner 1991). In Ghana, an estimated 13 percent of children aged 5 and 14 are economically Active and the phenomenon is prevalent in all regions of the country as observed by Assuming Brempong et al (2007) Oloko (2003) reported that there are approximately 15 million working children in Nigeria comprising approximately 8 million males and 7 million females. The children in labour who were not schooling consist of 4% employed as house keepers and their living conditions are crude and are exposed to early prostitution (Ekpo, 2005).
Despite the fact that the International Labour Conventions and different nation’s legislation to protect children from economic exploitation, the practice still continues to prevail and becoming a structural part of many economies in both the formal and informal sectors throughout the world especially in developing countries (Assefa, 2000). They are often victims of physical, mental and sexual abuse. Nkamleu (2005) opine that children in sub-Saharan Africa tend to be of economic value as a result of being a desirable asset for struggling parents. In fact a possible reason parents in developing countries have children is because they can be profitable (Syed et al 1991).
Child labour is an indication of an under developed society and has adverse impact on a Nation’s development. Child labour is a long standing socio-economic problem that is threatening the rights of many children in the world today. In recent times, concern about the child has taken the centre stage in national and international discourse. It all started being of national and international concern in 1948 when the Universal Declarations of Human Rights was made, which then became specified and particularized in 1989 at the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the child.
In 1990, the World Summit for children was held at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters, New York where 7 Heads of Stated and Governments including Nigeria, attended. In fact it was at this summit that Nigeria signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Here also, Heads of State and Government pledged their commitment to putting a programme of action in place towards proper child development. In 1990 also, at Addis Ababa, Nigeria along with several other African countries adopted a Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the African Child at the Convention of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). This Charter was derived from the Universal Declaration of 1989 but recognized the peculiarities of the African Child. The Charter recognized among others the socio-cultural and the educational dimensions of the African child which may not differ much among African countries but which could be quite incomparable when other continents are brought into focus. In 1991therefore, at another convention of the same body in Abuja-Nigeria, the 1990s was declared “Decade of the African Child” with the 16th of June every year set aside to mark the “Day of the African Child” (ILO, 2011).
The Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Godswill Akpabio, on 5th December, 2008 signed the child rights act into law to protect the growth of perceptual, emotional, intellectual and behavioural capabilities and functioning during childhood of Akwa Ibom children under 16 years. The law protects the Akwa Ibom child from birth to adolescence and up to 16 years such that the child is afforded the necessary protection and assistance to avail them the opportunity to assume responsibilities within the community. For effective implementation of child rights law the government was to make budgetary commitment massively and deploy resources for health, education, nutrition, water and sanitation (AKSG, 2008). Oleribe (2007) identified various forms of labour to include agriculture, street hawking, waiters in hotels, bus conductors, traders in the open markets. According to UNICCEF, 2006 cited in PINE, 2009 others include construction, pornography industry, factories, shops, and a wide range of other activities. He went on to say that more boys than girls work outside their homes. But that more girls work in some jobs for instance as domestic maids. Obinaju and Asa (2013) classified forms of child labour as follow: Street hawkers children bricklayers, children baby sitters, house helps, plantation workers, truck pushers, beggars, beggars guides, livestock rearers and vulcanizers. These are ways which the children are forced into economic exploitation in violation to the child rights law (AKS Child Right Law).
According to (ILO, 2002; Mazhar, 2008; Moyie , 2010) factors responsible for the high incidence of child labour apart from being poverty in developing countries include economic stagnation, illiteracy, lack of alternatives, demand for child workers in the labour market, war, famine, orphan hood, powerlessness, rapid spread of HIV/AIDS and deficient economic and educational policies for child labour. However not all work are harmful to children. It is considered tolerable only when it is not hazardous to children mental, physical, social or moral development and not interferes with their schooling (ILO, 1999; ILO, 2004; Rickey, 2009). Available studies suggest that light work or non-hazardous work can have positive outcomes for child development because it provides labour market experience. For example, minors in Paraguay contribute almost a quarter of the total family income.
Uyo is the capital of Akwa Ibom State (one of the thirty-six states in Nigeria). The government of the state operates from this city. Thus, all the state government offices are located in the city. There are more than twenty banks in Uyo. Migration to the city is high. This is because a large number of people are moving from the rural areas of the state to Uyo for greener pastures and better living conditions. Apart from the indigenes, there are people from other parts of Nigeria residing in Uyo hence high rate of child labour in the area of study.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
In the developing countries such as ours (Nigeria in general and Akwa Ibom State in particular), economic stagnation and unemployment, massive rural migration and accelerated urban growth, aggravated by the rising cost of living have increased poverty and therefore the incidence of child labour.Children who work in the streets are exposed to drugs, violence and criminal acts.Child labour in Uyo is attributed to poverty and unemployment& illiteracy. This can be traced to the poor economy of the nation which is affected by inflationary factors among others. Other factors include loss of parents, children brained as witches who are abandoned a situation which forces a child to fend for him/ herself.
Child labour is a social predicament and an incident obstructing the normal and holistic growth of the child. Several studies show that the types of work children engage in are diverse. These works have exploitative nature and are hazardous to the children’s lives in many ways (Nardos, 2006; UNICEF, 2001). The situation is too serious for employed working children than those who are working with their relatives or families (Lomi, 2002). Today child labour is virtually invisible to most people, but child workers are available everywhere in the world. Sold or exchanged as cheap merchandise, many children cannot escape bonded labour or prostitution. Others suffer, and many only barely survive the long hours of work, the heavy burdens, the dangerous tools, the poisonous chemicals