In this special report, Kabir Adejumo follows the children who have to labour for survival even as they are denied access to basic education. The report has been published in PREMIUM TIMES. Enjoy, please.
At Iwo Road in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, men and women shout as they make quick deals and hawk goods. However, among these sellers are children between the age of five-16, peddling vegetables, sachet water, groundnut, soft drinks, slippers, kerosene, bread and other consumables
This is a reflection of hundreds of children who have been denied access to primary and secondary education in communities visited by in the capital.
The communities are Olodo, Kajola, Iyana Church, Iyana Agbala, Gbagi and Iwo Road where enrolment into primary and junior secondary is in shambles.
Some of these children even experience harassment, sexual abuse and cheating.
On September 5, Tobi Popoola was seen crying at Olodo when this reporter moved closed to him to know the reason. The 13-year-old boy told PREMIUM TIMES that he misplaced N1600 he made from kerosene he was hawking for her mother.
“I have just misplaced N1600, the money made from the sales of kerosene and my mum will beat me for carelessness when I get home. Please, how much can you spare me?,” the innocent boy speaking in Yoruba asked this reporter.
Our correspondent assured Tobi that he will follow him home to plead with his mother but he protested saying: “that will not stop me from being beaten, if not today, my beating will be doubled for the sin when you are gone.”
This reporter then assured him that he will make the payment as they both trek back home. The reporter asks Tobi why he was not in a summer lesson with his colleagues ahead of the new session.
“I have stopped going to school since I finished my primary education.”
“My mummy and daddy fought (and) we packed away from my daddy. Since then, I hawk and my mother also hawks. The little we made is what we use to feed ourselves including with my four-year-old brother, Aanu, and pay house rent,” he explains.
Iyana Church, Kajola, Iyana Agbala
Iya Aina owns a food canteen at Iyana Church; a road linking to Monatan High School. She has just instructed her daughter, Aina, between the age of 13 and 15 to help fetch enough water before going to her place of work. This reporter, however, requested to know the job the little girl does.
“She’s done with her (junior) WAEC and since then I have put her at a place where she’s learning makeup and fixing of nails. She will make money from there and vend for herself. You know one must be serious and face reality. Even if she eventually goes to (senior) secondary and university, where is the job? After all, she’s a girl. It is better to ‘face job’ now and when she finds a man she wants to marry, she will continue her life and be independent,” she tells PREMIUM TIMES.
At Kajola and Iyana Agbala, PREMIUM TIMES observed that most of these kids work as maids in food canteens, provision stores, and recharge card stores.
Kunle Ashiru, narrated why he prefers selling recharge cards to any other business.
“Although, the gain in selling recharge card is not really much ooo. But it is not a dirty job. That’s the reason why I chose the job,” he said as PREMIUM TIMES questioned him about his parents.
“They are both fine. My dad is a barber and my mum sells groundnut. They told me they can’t send me to university and truly I understand that things are not really rosy for the family. Except God sends a helper to us. But I still believe I will go to school and graduate one day.”
The case of Sade Okunoye is similar to that of Kunle, a 15-year-old lady who told this reporter that upon marrying a husband, she will decide if education is right for her or not.
“I hope I will get a husband to sponsor me. Although, I’m doing my best now but I have to feed myself before thinking about schooling.”
Iwo Road, Gbagi
These two places are the headquarters where the menace persists most.
The reporter got to Iwo Road around 11 am on September 6 to observe how children were running after vehicles chanting “buy your bread… buy your chips… handkerchief… cold pure water”…
Most of the kids could not speak with our correspondent as they showed determination pursuing vehicles and would not want any conversation to deny them the gains of the day.
At Gbagi, they are mostly seen hawking sachet water, cold drinks and other products.
“It is for the main time. If I get money, I have the dream of even having a shop in this Gbagi. This is the dream I have with my parents. They only want me to learn how to sell raw foods and by the time I’m done, they will provide with money to set myself up. I have been learning for the past one year now and very soon, I should do ‘freedom’.
Yes, we also do ‘freedom’, it is like learning any other profession,” Halimat told this reporter at Gbagi.
“We are many doing this same thing here in Gbagi. Just that the businesses we are learning are different. Some are learning how to sell cloth, some are learning how to sell provision, some are learning catering, some are learning hair making, makeup, and here I am learning how to sell ‘elubo’ (cassava flour) and make a profit. The only thing here is that no ‘Oga’ will take you if you did not come with your parents to sign an agreement and stand as guarantors for you,” she says.
In June, the Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, disclosed his intention to establish a child welfare centre to cater for street children and orphans while receiving members of the new governing board of the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, led by the chairman, Bagudu Shettima, who paid him a courtesy visit in his office.
“The general wellbeing of the people of Oyo State is one of the top priorities of our administration and that is why we have invested heavily on health facilities and evolved policies in the health sector, which are today being emulated by other states across the country. I am, therefore, happy to inform you that plan is at an advanced stage for me to establish a child welfare centre, which will see to the welfare and wellbeing of those children in need of parental care.
“This will reduce the rate of child abuse, child trafficking and the use of our youth for nefarious activities like thuggery and brigandage,” he said.
However, when PREMIUM TIMES contacted the state’s commissioner for women affairs, children and social welfare, Atinuke Osunkoya, on the menace of child workers in the state’s capital, Ibadan, she told our correspondent to send a text message.
“Kindly send text message,” she said.
Weeks after this reporter sent her the text message, she has refused to reply or answer subsequent calls put through to her.
Blame The Society?
One of the coordinators of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) Movement in Southwest, Dunsi Samuel told PREMIUM TIMES that blame should strictly not be on the parents of the kids but rather on the society.
“When education is being discussed, the rational thought that should come along is that -it is the best and most effective way to develop a society.
“Besides, education serves as a tool that liberates the mind. So, a society that is genuinely interested in development should consider education an important factor.
“Hence, the only way that citizen’s education can be ensured is when it is managed by the public through its resources because it is a social responsibility, not an individual responsibility. Therefore the blame for child workers in Oyo capital should be placed at the doorstep of the Oyo State government.
“The knowledge gained from education when put into practical application does not only benefit the educated individual but the general society,” he said.
“Highest Number Of Out-Of-School Children In The World”
A fact check by Dubawa; an initiative of PTCIJ, with principles of accountability, truth and collaboration; by creating a community for Nigerians to report and question the information posited by the media and the government reported that according to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS) policy paper which was published in July 2016, 8.7 million Nigerian children were considered out-of-school.
This figure, which is based on country information obtained in 2014 is periodically revised as new information surfaces on child literacy and access to education.
The report states that there are 61 million out-of-school children in the world. Of the 61 million out-of-school children, 34 million or more than half live in sub-Saharan Africa, due in part to high population growth rates in the region. Southern Asia has the second highest number of out-of-school children with 11 million.
In comparison to other countries within and outside Africa, Nigeria rates the highest. Nigeria has 8.7 million out-of-school children of primary age, followed by Pakistan (5.6 million), India (2.9 million), Sudan (2.7 million), Ethiopia (2.1 million) and Indonesia (2.0 million). These six countries (including Nigeria) are home to more than one-third of all out-of-school children in the world, according to UIS data.
The most recent household survey done in Nigeria in 2016 and published in 2017, the fifth round Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS5) which was conducted by National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) with the support of UNICEF inadvertently confirms the claim.
The survey report shows that a total of 9.1 million children are out-of-school in Nigeria, a figure which is even higher than the figure quoted in the UIS 2016 report.
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