Sprinting after moving cars in traffic girds with a tray of garden eggs without the anxiety of beingknocked off by other vehicles which may lead to injuries, bone fracture and amputation, maiming, and death on a drizzling Thursday evening at about 8:00 pm, is Enitan, a 10-year-old boy who resides with his single mother, a local fruit seller in the neighborhood of Ibadan, Oyo state capital.
Enitan was speaking happily despite the drizzle with his friend, who was also carrying on his head, a nearly empty tray of oranges.
The duo were spotted waiting for more customers and also a vehicle to take them home after the day hawking in Oke Ado are among the 14 million estimated children between the ages of 5 and 14 involved in the form of economic activity in Nigeria, according to The International Labour Organisation.
Oke-Ado is a sizable and active community made up of towns and villages, located along Molete Road in Ibadan South West.
The decision for Enitan’s commencement of street hawking was made after her mother parted ways with the husband over infidelity.
“When my mother saw, it was not easy to take care of me and my younger sisters with the meager profit she receives from her sales, she asked me [at the age of 7] to start hawking.
“After school, I do return to my mother’s shop, place garden eggs in my hawking tray, and depart for Oke Ado, where my mother thinks the fruits would sell best.” Enitan narrated.
Until dusk, Enitan makes his regular rounds of the street, hawking his garden eggs.
“Three years ago, after my mother accused my father of extramarital affairs which led to a heated argument, which made him leave the following morning with his belongings. My mother has been the one caring for the family alone.
“My mother thought the decision would be a good idea for my older sister to learn handwork to support herself. Currently, she works as an apprentice to a stylist.”
To Enitan, hawking had caused him a loss of education which is the most cited side effect of hawking. “Every morning, the thought of having to hawk after the school sent chills down my spine, but with time, I grew accustomed to it. There had been times when I may not have sold anything, and my mother would scold me out of anger.
“Now, things have changed; the only issue is that I don’t have time to study during the day and would be exhausted by the time I get home from hawking because I can’t afford to fail in my studies, I make the most of the little time I have to study at school before going home.”
When asked how much he made daily, he said: “It depends on the number of goods my mother gives me.”
Many of these intelligent kids, like Adebola Enitan, have dreadful experiences to share about how they balance education and street hawking.
The factors ultimately come down to things like poverty, poor standard of living, and illiteracy, among other things. While some of them feel indifferent about their circumstances, others think their circumstances are what led to the way things are.
Child hawking, long hours of wandering
13-year-old Abiola Quadri, who attends Oke-Bola comprehensive high school, in Ibadan, hawks oranges along Oke Ado Road to Molete.
Quadri lives with his parents with two younger siblings, his father who occasionally comes home works at Onitsha while his mother is a full-time housewife who has no sort of job.
According to him, “I’m not happy hawking if you ask me, but I have to follow my mother’s instructions, and I doubt my father is even aware of it. I don’t hawk while he’s around; instead, I hang out at home with my siblings.
“My mother asked me to hawk oranges on the streets while she sits at home all day, and it was not my father’s choice. My mother would have prepared the oranges I would sell for the day before returning from school.”
Enitan and Quadri cases are examples of children who attend school but are also forced to submit to street hawking due to the predicament they find themselves in.
Street hawking by children is a common phenomenon. Children all around the world, in both industrialized and developing nations, engage in it. This is one of the problems with child labor that generates the most attention. In Nigeria, children selling goods on the street is a relatively prevalent issue, particularly in urban areas.
The involvement of the children can corrupt them in a variety of ways, and it has a terrible impact on the education of those children who engage in it. They are also vulnerable to various health issues, mishaps, physical stress, kidnapping, and other issues.
The majority of the girls who hawk along busy roads and streets also fall prey to rapists and child traffickers while the younger boys join gangs and graduate into robbery.
According to Nigerian law, child labour is the employment of children under the age of 18 in a manner that restricts or prevents them from basic education and development. UNICEF data reveals that child laborers make up the biggest percentage of workers in Sub-Saharan Africa of which 26% are between the ages of 5 and 17 and in the least developed countries, slightly more than one in four of the children are engaged in labor that is considered detrimental to their health and development.
Also as stipulated by UNICEF on the need to implement the act prohibiting child hawkers in Nigeria, It’s bad to hear that the majority of the children engaged in street hawking are said to be doing it for their parents to supplement their income.
In contrast, others consider it as another way of getting a means of survival. It stated that regarding the law, Nigeria is a signatory to the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was established to protect children from getting involved in any activity which negatively impacts their health and well-being.
Based on this study, child hawkers harm children’s desire to learn and it is a growing public health concern in developing nations like Nigeria, where poverty is the main contributing factor. The study’s research revealed the following effects of being a street hawker on education: poor involvement, increased rate of truancy and lateness to school, loss of interest, slow progression, high rate of dropout, and low educational attainment. It could thus be submitted that street hawking is detrimental to the educational development of the street hawkers.
The study urges the government to work together to support children from low-income families in receiving an uninterrupted basic education and good health. The introduction of a skill-based education (Technical School) or skill development program will be more relevant and engaging in areas with higher poverty and unemployment rates.
Saheed Ibrahim, a researcher, and coordinator of the Young African Leaders Initiative in Ondo State said this discourse and practices can be hardly found in a developed society where everybody lives for himself with a high standard of living and the government takes care of certain things including the welfare of the citizens.
“In the traditional setting, hawking is not a problem as most of us hawk while growing up to help our parents but in cases whereby we see children below the age of 18, hawking in the streets, that’s where we draw the line if it is acceptable or it is called child abuse because in most cases, most of these children are supposed to be in class.
“Recently, our organization discovered a school that has a dilapidated building, and the last time the government was there was 20 years ago. We found out that Out of 253 children in the community, only 100 go to school and the reason is that these children can’t afford to get the materials for school so they preferred to go to the farm with their parents or to the market. And from our end, we were able to donate, provide and create awareness about the school.
“There are levels to all these things, the major cause is the standard of living, inflation, job creation, industrialization, inflation, and boosting production. When the cost of living is too high, then you find parents trying to look for other means for them to make means to gather revenue for the family.
“Some of these children will offer to hawk for their parents and it has now become a norm in society. When a parent has enough, then the children won’t hawk, but in the case that the parents don’t have money, poverty will drive them to the streets because they are incapacitated.
“Economic factor brings about all the problems in a case when you have children that don’t have parents, they have to fend for themselves and since they are not employable because they are not within the age that someone can employ them, so most of them resort to hawking”.
Ibrahim further explained that the discourse will continue, no matter how much the government, individuals, or organizations create empowerment.
“Currently in Nigeria, inflation is at the highest rate in the history of the country, which means that even if you have one million with you, you are as good as somebody having a hundred thousand some years back. if we talk about empowerment, the present inflation, poverty rate, and industrialization can’t be left out”, he said
He concluded that everything boils down to an economically vibrant nation, and until this is done, everything will be sorted to Job creation, industrialization, inflation, and boosting production.
“Having children hawking is not a problem, it is a symptom of the problem”, he added.
Another expert that runs an NGO which focuses on restoring children living in low-income communities, Oyeleye Kehinde Emmanuel, Chief Executive Officer of Acalypha Child Care Initiative said that child hawking is more of a mental issue that people are plagued with across the country.
“According to the law that guides them, most of the things they are doing are out of context because they are not mature to handle things like that. So the legal framework that guides the protection of children should be emphasized,
“Another reason why many of them were out of school is that there is no adequate provision for the children. The issue of school fees among others. If we really want to take up the issue of hawking then we must prioritize education. In the place of SUBEBE, primary education, and nursery education should be the optimum assignment of the government to see if that will surely be able to reduce the hawkers on the streets and also in the case of alleviating poverty.
“Children and parents should be sensitized and enlightened regarding the dangerous aspect of it, and the endangering lives of these children, and all hands must be on deck to keep sensitizing people about the dangers. Once it is a law that children must not hawk, then the legal aspect must be there to enforce it to ensure that there is a balanced operation system to see that the issue of hawking is being tackled.”