Child Labour In The COVID-19 Era

Child labour is defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as work situations where children are compelled to work on a regular basis to earn a living for themselves or their families and as a result, are disadvantaged educationally and socially; where children work in conditions that are exploitative and damaging to their health and to their physical and mental development.

The earliest known form of child labor is slavery which was a big business, as it both created and relied on the support network of big merchants where it flourished. In recent times, child labour has taken new shape which includes street trading, domestic service, industrial work and sex hawking to mention but a few.

The year 2020 started with the deadly covid-19 pandemic ravaging the world and Africa holding the weakest end of the stick. To curb this pandemic, various sectors of the economy, business and education were placed on lockdown. Human and vehicular traffic too. Without the government providing for her citizens, hunger struck. Poor people in our slums and rural communities been at the receiving end wouldn't let hunger take their lives and that of their children hence, they are ever ready to make ends meet by all means including sending children to work and hawk commodities.

As the IMF predicted, a heavy recession is already hitting all nations leaving billions of families in abject poverty. Given that poverty is one of the major causes of child labour in communities WHAI works, which has significantly increased the rate of child labour. Parents send their kids to farm all day making these children lift implements heavier than their age.

These families do not have the finance to engage their kids in any academic lesson, they have no access to mobile gadgets for online learning, hence they send their kids out to make money to enable them meet the family's basic needs. The number of working children/pupils has risen drastically in the local communities where we work since schools are closed down. The families cried out that most of the palliatives they hear about, none has gotten to them, hence have no option than to fend for themselves.

We are already seeing hundreds of children hawking face masks on the streets, market places, on the high ways and even at gatherings. We have also seen children turn to house boys and girls, doing domestic chores bigger than their age including carrying gallons of water from distant places etc as there is no running water in most homes, and water is an essential commodity in the house hence the children are sent to carry up to four kegs of 25 kgs of water each and trek distances in order to supply water for the family use. This might affect their health in the future.

No matter how sweet/good the commodity a child hawks taste or how good the child is at doing it, or the amount of money the child makes for the family, it is still exploitation. These children face sexual abuse, harsh labour, under payment, lifetime effect etc. in the course.

Child labour is the easiest way of redirecting children from the path of light that childhood brings and pushing them into the darkest destructions of premature adulthood.

On this World Day Against Child Labour, WHAI beckons on all people of goodwill to join this fight in any of the following ways:

Ø Helping provide back-to-school pack ($12) for at least one child in poor communities we work

Ø Promising yourself as a parent to give your child opportunity to enjoy quality childhood

Ø Pledging not to employ the services of a child for labour

Ø Reporting child trafficker to law enforcement agencies

Ø Partnering or supporting the capacity building programs we offer to poor communities and children at the verge of dropping out from school

We cannot wait on the government alone to do something. It's time we begin to make personal and collaborative efforts bearing in mind that we keep staying at a point until we take a walk.

A child is not a miniature adult. Child labour can be ended only if we decide to be the face of change!





(@)John Onuigbo and Udegboka Nkechi

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