IMPACT OF CHILD LABOUR ON SCHOOL ATTENDANCE AND ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE
Background of the Study
In Nigeria, the main instrument for social change is western education. Education is the surest and greatest investment which a nation can depend on for the rapid development of its economic and human resources. Education is a long term measure and must be pursued when the nation is in dire need of immediate restoration of balanced economy. Nigeria like other nations of the world wants people who should contribute to the development of the nation through education. Such education should be structured to produce knowledge and skills to pursue cultural values and develop technologically.
UNICEF (2006) reported that a huge 15 million children under the age of 14 are engaged in one form of labour or the other in Nigeria. Majority of these children are exposed to long hours of work under very dangerous and unhealthy environment.
Children employed in public places and markets as street beggars and shoe shiners, car washers and watchers, scavengers and feet washers in part of the country. In Northern Nigeria, children that survive on street begging are called “almajirai”. The rise in the state of child labour in the country could have been a consequence of the demand for cheap labour and poverty.
Children have always worked in Nigeria. The philosophy of most culture in Nigeria encourages children to work with their families the learning skills they would need as adults. But today, children are forced to work for their own and their family’s survival. The money earned by a child’s family members has become a significant part of poor families’ income. Child labour could lead to mass drop-out from primary and secondary schools; involvement in crimes and drug related habits; hamper human capital development and the potentials of developing countries like Nigeria. There is a wide-spread belief that early employment is destructive to children’s intellectual and physical development especially that of young children.
International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates in 1999 indicated that 24.2 percent of children in Nigeria between the ages of 10 and 14 years work. The latter situation could be responsible for the increasing rate of child trafficking in Nigeria. Nigeria is a major source, destination and transit for trafficking of children. Key source and destination countries of trafficking children from and to Nigeria include Cameroun, Gabon, Benin, Equatorial Guinea and Togo. Nigeria has been credited to have the highest number of children and women traffickers in Africa.
Child labour could affect both the ability to attend school and to benefit from schooling; hence it is a big challenge to the attainment of the goals of Education For All (EFA). When children are employed in one form of labour or the other, they tend to drop out of schools.
Child domestic labour in third-party households represents a major barrier to access and completion of quality basic education in Nigeria.
UNICEF (2006) reported that mostly working children neither have time, money, nor the energy to go to school. There are about 6 million working children in Nigeria, which is equally divided between boys and girls. Working children either do not attend school or skip classes because about 1 million children are forced to drop out of school due to poverty. Over 8 million children combine schooling and work. These groups of children work in their spare time to pay education fees, in this process they often skip classes due to demand in their work places. Missing out on education makes it impossible to break the cycle of poverty and exploitation and prevents children from having a better life and a safer future.
There is dearth of data on primary attendance rates in Nigeria. Though, a school enrolment rate is a sign of the level of commitment to education. In Nigeria, however, they do not always reflect a child’s participation in school.
In 1976, the Universal Primary Education (UPE) was introduced throughout the country. It should be noted however, that only tuition was free while parents and guardians were responsible for the provision of books, uniform, seats, transport and others. For the parents who could not provide such basic requirements, their children and wards were forced into child labour because the requirements were more financially involved than the tuition fees.
Also, the Universal Basic Education (UBE) was introduced in 1999, the latter policy made the first nine years of schooling free and compulsory for all Nigerian children of school age. UBE is backed up by law which also stipulates free compulsory and universal education when it is practical. The aim of the plan is to improve the relevance, efficiency and quality of schools and to create programmes to address the basic needs of normadic and out of school children, youth and adult and vulnerable children generally.
Economic depression which also let to economic and educational problems, unemployment, mass retrenchment which gave rise to parents, inability to cater for the children basic and educational needs made the children to engage in economic activities (child labour) at the expense of schooling.
Learning environments in schools are inhibitive and hostile to learning. They are dehumanizing because of neglect at all levels with inadequate learning facilities such as chairs, tables, desks, shortage of classrooms. All these may be affecting the attitudes of children and parents towards learning, such that if the government lacks the financial resources to take care of them, the parents too are affected so they engage the children in economic activities.
Child labour has continued to pose a significant problem in several parts of the world. The Labour Act of 1974 prohibits the employment of children under the age of 15 in commerce and industry and restricts labour performance by children to home-based agricultural or domestic work.
Child labour has both micro consequences for the child and her family, the macro consequences for the nation and wider international community. Lack of skilled workforce may lead to a state of perpetual backward and under-development. The lack of human capital formation condemns a child to a generational cycle of child labour.
The literature is near unanimous on the positive role that rising adult education level can play in reducing the child labour and enhancing child’s schooling. This points to the need to devise comprehensive strategies that promote adult education at all levels and social awareness and increase the enrolment rates of their children.
Not all types of labour are harmful to children if associated with a learning environment in the home. It can provide training and discipline for the labour market in adulthood. Nevertheless, the type of labour in which children are involved can impose substantial harm to their physical and mental health.
The heavy manual labour of agricultural activities could place physical and emotional strain on the child worker. In urban areas, children may be engaged in street vending, garbage collection and illegal occupation such as selling drugs and prostitution.
Child labour also has an adverse impact on education and future earning. Government and non-governmental organization (NGOs) have tried a variety of laws and interventions to reduce child labour. Some countries have enacted laws prohibiting firms in their countries from employing children under the age of fifteen (15). Organizations such as International Labour Organization (ILO), World Trade Organization (WTO) and United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF) have established conventions and encouraged nations to ratify them. The most powerful and controversial super national institution to curb child labour is the imposition of international labour standards but the world has been slow to adopt them.
Some countries have considered legislation and actions to curb child labour in developing countries: beyond home legislation, the major instrument for eradicating child labour is compulsory education. Policy makers and multilateral institutions are praising the achievements of programmes of conditional income transfer in reducing child labour and increasing the access of children to education. This study seeks to examine the impact of child labour on school attendance and academic performance.
Statement of Problem
‘Education for All’ movement is a global charge to provide quality basic education for all children, youths and adults. The global commitment of education for all emerged as a reaction to the increasing phenomenon of child labour, child trafficking, child exploitation and child related abuses that tend to deprive children of basic education and unassured future child labour is a major challenge in the educational sector in Nigeria.
A well organized educational system is a product of a certain factor in which educational production exceed human requirement. This is where adequate provision for job opportunities and others are catered for by the government. Under this experience, child labour may probably be reduced.
The Nigerian economy has been for a long depressed and inflation rate has also been high, standard of living has been too low. There has been low investment, low productivity, low income per capital, unemployment, under employment, inter-tribal crisis which have probably led to child labour. Much of the recent concern over child labour stems from the beliefs that it has a detrimental effect on human capital formation.
The question that comes to the researcher’s mind is how can these children be helped so that they can benefit from government’s basic education policy.
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