Essay on Child Labour as a Real Abuse to Humanity

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This study will explore the harsh and various forms of abuse a child faces in Nigeria. A child is cherished and chastised in Nigeria by the parents or those who care for the child. Adults in Nigeria do not know that there is a thin line between chastising a child and abusing a child. A child is exposed to some form of chastisement or abuse which might include physical violence, sexual abuse, severe beatings, emotional and verbal abuse, child labor, and underage help. Child abuse violates the rights of a Nigerian child.

Child abuse has for a long time been recorded in literature, art, and science in many parts of the world. Reports of infanticide, mutilation, abandonment, and other forms of violence against children date back to ancient civilizations. The historical record is also filled with reports of unkempt, weak, and malnourished children cast out by families to fend for themselves and children who have been sexually abused.

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In most instances, a parent's belief system and perception play an important role in the way that a parent abuses the child under their control. The idea of teaching children right and wrong is part of child-rearing, and parents use different methods to accomplish this goal. The extent to which the physical punishment of children is understood in the Nigerian context in comparison to other countries and the cultural beliefs, values, and norms that exist within the Nigerian community helps shape the way parents train a child; which helps to encourage abuse and all forms of ill-treatment on a child. For the Nigerian parent and for the Nigerian child, culture is the important factor that contributes to the incidences of child abuse.

A Nigerian child should be protected from inhuman treatment that arises as a result of abuse. A child in Nigeria faces abuse from his parents and from anyone that is older than the child in terms of age. In Nigeria, a child is told that he should respect his elders and those in a position of authority over the child, and at no point should the child question or disrespect the elders and those in authority. In some instances, a parent punishes the child if it gets reported to the parents by someone older than the child disrespected the elder or someone in a position of authority without first inquiring from the child about the circumstances that led to such disrespect.

Nigeria is a signatory to several international instruments relating to child rights. Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, recommended the abolition of all physical punishment of children. Despite this recommendation by the United Nations and Nigeria has signed and ratified this treaty, Nigerian parents continue to utilize physical punishment and abuses as part of their child-rearing process and continue to adhere to it. A Nigerian child is faced with abuse both at home and outside the house. A child is abused in the public space by the parent spanking the child or verbally abusing the child and the adults present in the public space would find nothing bad with what was melted to the child but will go ahead to encourage the parents on the job well done.

Physical punishment is prevalent in Nigeria and even condoned by the judicial system. Caning and whipping have been the most prevalent methods used to punish juveniles in court, and the use of a ruler or a cane has been used in schools. Although corporal punishment was discouraged in the Nigerian Child’s Rights Act, it has been documented through empirical research that secondary school students are punished by “caning or whipping, slapping with bare hands, hitting with objects, kneeling down for a long period of time, raising up of both hands for a long period of time. The disciplinary tactics used by Nigerian parents indicate that the cultural belief in Nigeria is that parents should use abusive and harsh punishments on the child and any parent that refuses to use abusive punishments on the child were seen as negating the child-rearing process in Nigeria.

Terms related to abusive punishment for clarity purposes in this study are defined as follows:

    • Physical punishment: The term physical punishment is used interchangeably with the term corporal punishment in this study. Black’s Law Dictionary defines corporal punishment as “any kind of punishment of or inflicted on the body, such as whipping or the pillory”.
    • Spanking: Spank, as a verb, is defined as the use of an open hand to strike a child on the lower extremities of the body such as the buttocks. It is a form of physical or corporal punishment.
    • Child abuse: Child abuse is used interchangeably with the term child maltreatment. It is a broad concept with many definitions, some of which incorporate physical or corporal punishment. Black’s Law Dictionary defines child abuse as “the often violent and inhumane behavior that an adult shows toward a child”. It normally is separated into physical, sexual, emotional, and neglectful abuse, but it can also include child labor and child marriage.
    • Parents: Parents are considered to be the mothers and fathers of children or caregivers.

Nigeria is a conglomeration of the Northern and Southern Protectorates created in 1914 through obtaining independence from Britain in 1960. It is a federal State and as a result, there exists both federal and State legislation. Due to the differences among states and varying degrees of their independence, politically, culturally, and economically, different laws and circumstances apply to different states, causing a great degree of disparity between them.

The Nigerian Child’s Rights Act (CRA 2003) was passed into law by the National Assembly and Child’s Rights Laws were subsequently passed in 18 out of 36 state assemblies. The Nigerian Child Rights Act is a document that reflects many international conventions and therefore tries to mirror certain Nigerian legislation relating to a child in terms of their rights and corresponding duties of obedience and respect by the state and the public necessary for their protection.

Nigeria is a signatory to a number of important international conventions affecting the rights of the child, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the Nigerian Child Rights Act are important documents in enforcing the protection of a child. For example, it recognizes the right to the dignity of a child and prohibits the use of a child for exploitative labor.

In a bid to survive the hard times in the economy, some families have resorted to giving out their children as child laborers so as to earn income for subsistence. This phenomenon has scuttled efforts aimed at human capital development thereby increasing juvenile delinquency while perpetuating the vicious cycle of poverty. This study has its theoretical framework on the theoretical model of child labor supply and examined the impact of child labor on human capital development in Nigeria with a specific focus on Onitsha Metropolis, Anambra state. It is descriptive survey research. Non-probability sampling was employed and the sample was drawn using quota and purposive sampling techniques. The Interview schedule was used as the instrument for data collection and the data collected were analyzed using the qualitative response regression model (binary probit). The study established, from the regression analysis, that child labor has a negative impact on the school enrollment rate, mental well-being, and physical fitness of children in Onitsha. The study recommended amongst other things, the enforcement of free compulsory education to children in Onitsha. Also, child labor education should be introduced in school curricula to help create awareness of the rights of the child and the consequences of child labor on the mental, physical, and social development of children to reduce the menace of child labor.

Child labor involves works that are harmful to a child’s health as these include any work that violates children’s fundamental human rights and is life-threatening to the child. It also includes works that exhaust children’s strength, damage their bodies, and prevents children from going to school to gain basic skills and knowledge for their future development. Over eight million children manage to stay in school and work in their spare time to pay education fees. Due to high demands at work, these children often skip classes. Missing out on education makes it impossible to break the cycle of poverty and exploitation and this prevents children from having a better life and a safer future. According to Olatunji, NAPTIP was able to find out that there were five major states where child labor was prevalent. These states were Ogun, Kano, Kaduna, Anambra, and Edo states. In Anambra State, a prevalent situation made the Anambra State Government ban children from working during school hours. Most child workers in Anambra are in domestic service and hawking. Such laborers have been called ‘the world most forgotten children’. Ordinarily, domestic service needs not to be hazardous. Nevertheless, it often is as children in domestic servitude, living with or without their parents are poorly cared for while some of them are trafficked. They are, in most cases, deprived of affection, functional schooling, and other social activities. Most of the major cities in Nigeria face this problem and Onitsha, which is one of the major cities in Anambra state, is not left out. Onitsha rates are high in the incidence of child labor because of the concentration of the population of people under the poverty line. A lot of children residing in Onitsha are seen hawking sachet water, oranges, and corn, engaging in prostitution, and working in restaurants, performing such chores as babysitting, fetching water, sweeping, splitting firewood, and cooking as a laborer. With this, it is clear that these children are not in school and this is a threat to human capital development and the potential of developing economies. The existence of a large number of child workers hampers the possibility of growth by perpetuating the existence of unskilled labor. Basu is of the opinion that child labor at the individual level impairs the physical and mental development of children. This situation according to him brings about an increment in the number of lay-about, mentally demented, and stunted persons in society. This condition spells doom as Basu maintained that there is a “child labor trap’’ that the family is likely to fall into. His contention is that an increase in child labor frequently causes a decline in the acquisition of human capital. This research, therefore, is intended to find out specifically the mechanism through which this happens. The evidence of child labor in Onitsha and the seeming dearth of studies on its effects on human capital development provides the justification for this study. The major objective of this study is to find out the impact child labor has on the human capital development of children in Onitsha while the specific objectives are to find out the impact child labor has on school enrollment, mental well-being, and physical fitness of children in Onitsha.

Just like how in life or before a person starts a business venture, such a person first counts the cost by considering the advantages and disadvantages of engaging in such a venture. Child labor was not an abused notion at the beginning when child labor started. Child labor was a form of expression of belonging given to a child by the family. The child is expected to contribute to the development and advancement of his immediate family by engaging in activities relevant to a child of that age and stature. Child labor as of old was seen as a form of training a child and impacting on the child the necessary tools for survival. The child relied on the advice and expertise of the parents to learn and engage in certain activities as a child. However, as a result of changes in traditional practices and modernization, parents crossed the thin line between child abuse and child labor. A child is no longer given the workload meant for a child but rather is given the workload meant for an adult.

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