Despite the Child Rights Act, many school-age children are still seen on some Lagos streets hawking while their mates are in school,
Some parents and guardians in Lagos State still involve their children and wards in child labour. Despite the fact that all the primary and secondary schools in the state resumed for the second term session two weeks ago, some children, who should be in school, were seen hawking on the streets.
This runs contrary to the Child Rights Act, which the state adopted in 2007.
Our correspondent visited some parts of the city on Wednesday and Thursday mornings and met some of these children who had different stories to tell.
Some said they took to hawking because their parents could not afford to continue to pay for their education, hence they had to drop out of school.
Eleven-year-old Amina Bashiru, who lives with her parents in the Mushin area, said she dropped out of school in 2011.
At about 9.30am on Wednesday when her mates were in school, Amina was busy hawking satchet water called pure water inside Ojuwoye market in Mushin.
She claimed that she dropped out of school when she was in primary 3.
Amina wants to go back to school, but her parents have other ideas. Since they are petty traders, they want her to support them in fending for the family by hawking.
Amina is not the only victim of child labour. Thirteen-year-old Taye Fagbemi is another. He was seen hawking bar soap inside the busy market.
Narrating his experience, Taye said in Yoruba, “I left school since the middle of last year. I was then in primary five. But I have not gone back. I sell soaps in our shop over there. My parents live in Ilasamaja.”
Other child hawkers were seen on Olumorokun and neighbouring streets in Ojuwoye area in Mushin hawking their wares and engaging in other market activities – an obvious example of children whose right to education has been denied.
One of them is Sunday, a 13-year-old who sells electric and battery torches, toothbrushes and other items.
Sunday could not recall the last time he was in school.
He was busy counting some N500 currency notes while this conversation lasted.
Two public primary schools and a private school were located in the vicinity.
Besides, on Thursday some school-age children were seen at Oshodi under-bridge.
Two of them, Opeyemi Folajin and Opeyemi Oluwasegun, were selling VCDs and DVDs.
Fifteen-year-old Folajin, who claimed that he was living with a guardian, said he dropped out in SS1. Oluwasegun’s case is not any different except that he left in SS2.
The parents or guardians of some of these children were with them in their shops at the time of our investigation.
One of them was very aggressive when she got to know about the conversation between her son and our correspondent. They are probably ignorant of the Child Rights Act which was adopted in the country in 2003 and protects the rights of a child to education and other benefits.
The proprietress of a private school in Ojuwoye area of Mushin said, on condition of anonymity, that many of the parents were so poor they hardly cared how their children fared.
She said she felt bad each morning she saw them on her way to school.
She said, “The problem is that most of them have illiterate parents while others have poor ones. Some time ago, the school had to go after some of the children by force and we admitted them.
“We didn’t ask for any money from their parents. I ensured that they first had their bath every morning before classes resumed. You know, when their parents saw this, some of them now came back to thank us.”
In 2003, Nigeria adopted the Child Rights Act which protects, among others, the right of children to free, compulsory and universal primary education which is Section 15 of the Act. Some of the sub-sections read:
•Every child has the right to free, compulsory and universal basic education and it shall be the duty of the Government in Nigeria to provide such education.
•Every parent or guardian shall ensure that his child or ward attends and completes his primary school education and junior secondary education.
•Every parent, guardian or person who has the care and custody of a child who has completed his basic education, shall endeavour to send the child to a senior secondary school, except as provided for in subsection (4) of this section.
•Where a child to whom subsection (3) of this section applies is not sent to senior secondary school, the child shall be encouraged to learn an appropriate trade and the employer of the child shall provide the necessaries for learning the trade.
Also in Lagos State, the Childs Rights Act was adopted in 2007 and the state Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation is directly in charge of safeguarding these rights of every child and preventing or punishing any form of denial which include the right to education.
But a visit to the ministry at Alausa, Ikeja on Thursday did not yield any result as the officials connected with the Child Rights Act issue were not on seat.
Attempts to also reach the office on the telephone were not successful as the line did not go through.
Parents of such children risk jail terms if prosecuted.