Every June 16 is a Day of the African Child. The day aims at raising awareness for the situation of African children, and on nothing so special to share about the African Child this 2020 due to the mess the Covid-19 pandemic has thrown us into.
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 African 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 African children has risen drastically in the local communities where we work since schools are closed down.
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. This group of African children face sexual abuse, harsh labour, under payment, lifetime effect etc.
Exposing African children to harsh 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 Day of the African Child, 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 to give African children opportunity to enjoy quality childhood
Ø Pledging not to employ the .services of an African child for labour greater than his/her age
Ø Reporting any sort of abuse of an African child to the law enforcement agencies
Ø Partnering or supporting the capacity building programs we offer to poor communities and African children at the verge of dropping out from scschoo
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. An African child in the rural community can do better. We may be the face of change and hope they see!
© John Onuigbo and Udegboka Nkechi both work for WHAI