With Joke Adeniyi-Jackson
My heart sommersaulted; skipped several beats as I watched the children dashed between moving cars as they advertise their wares, some were even seen running after moving cars to hawk goods, at the site of the ongoing Diamond Split Underpass at Geri-Alimi, Ilorin, Kwara State. Despite their tender ages, the children often hawk late into the night, sometimes defying the cold weather and other bad atmospheric conditions.
The sight that catches one’s attention these days in most parts of Ilorin, the state capital, is that of under-aged children hawking various kinds of goods. These children, who are between the ages of 4 and 13 are mostly engaged by their parents or guardians to hawk in order to eke a living. The practise is on the rise in recent time because schools have closed for holiday.
There is no doubt that poverty and the prevailing economic situation is a major reason some parents send their children to hawk so that the proceeds could be used to run their home. They make these little children to hawk on the street to augment their family income.
But, one wonders if these parents are conscious of the dangers they are exposing these children to by sending them out to hawk. The truth is, children are vulnerable to abuse during hawking. They are exposed to dangers, such as abuse, rape and abduction. Particularly at a time like this when there are several paedophilia lurking around and incidences of kidnapping on the increase. In addition, children could easily be knocked down by vehicles or motorcycles during street hawking. Many victims of such accidents have either died or sustained lifelong injuries. It is quite obvious that street hawking could birth other social and security problems as it also exposes these children to bad influence which could lead to drug/substance abuse and prostitution. Incontrovertibly, street hawking has huge implications for children’s physically and emotionally.
Nevertheless, child street hawking is one of the main forms of child labour, which contravenes the Child Rights Act. Nigerian constitution is against putting children under compulsory labour. Unknown to many people, children also have rights under the Law. It is for this reason that there should be intensified englightenment on the Child Rights Act. It behooves civil society groups and NGOs to educate parents, through sensitisation programmes, on the Child’s Rights Act and the dangers of subjecting their children to street hawking.
The state government also have a role to play in sensitising parents and children on the various dangers associated with hawking. Government at all levels must tackle the child labour and other social ills headlong, which ultimately affect the growth and development of the child.
Government has the responsibility to execute policies that protect the right of children and ensure their wellbeing, towards securing a better future for them. Concerted effort should be made to implement the UN convention and the provisions of the Child Rights Act.
Parents of children who street hawk as a result of poverty should be empowered economically to be able to take care of them.
Parents and guardians on their part should know that it is their responsibility to always fend for their children and wards.
Parents can have a small kiosk where the child can assist in selling goods instead of roadside hawking, which exposes them to danger.
However, the long holiday is here again and these children need to be preoccupied with gainful activities. Though it is a period meant for relaxation after the stress of schooling, but it will do no harm to introduce to them one form of skill acquisition training or the other. There is the need to foster entrepreneurial spirit in children early. This is achievable during holidays. It is strongly believed that for students to succeed in school and life, they need opportunities to learn and practice essential skills. They can be trained on different skills such as tailoring, shoe making, beadmaking, barbing, hairdressing, makeover, tie and dye etcetera. Skill acquisition is of great importance in the contemporary world.
The country is going through economic recession and more than ever before this generation needs to embrace entrepreneurship as a viable way of solving the present economic crisis. It is for this reason that economic experts are clamouring for entrepreneurial revolution.
Since children are said to be the nation’s future, it’s important to think of how we can shape them into job creators by catching them young.
Like the saying that an idle hand is the devil’s workshop, children during this holiday should be given the opportunity to engage in productive ventures cum vocational training. Parents should identify their children’s interest which could be explored via vocational training for lifelong benefit. The holiday should not just be about summer lessons, camping, visit to relatives or idling away, they should be profitably engaged during this period.