Culture, Featured, Opinion

Child Labour In Africa – An Ugly Fate 

Nmesoma Okwudili


April 29, 2023

Child labour is a serious problem in many African nations, where poverty and limited access to education sometimes force children to work instead of attend school. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), approximately 72 million African children ages 5 to 17 work as children.

Child labour is prohibited under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It violates the rights of children to education, health, and protection against exploitation.

Agriculture, mining, construction, domestic labour, and street vending are just some of the exploitative and hazardous occupations that African children engage in. In 2010, the United States Department of Child Labour reported that Nigeria is experiencing the worst form of child labour, specifically in the agricultural sector.
The majority of children in rural areas harvest agricultural products like cacao, tobacco, and cassava. They may be required to work long hours in hazardous conditions for little or no compensation. Employers who exploit children’s inexperience, lack of knowledge, and lack of negotiating power are especially likely to do so.

Due to child labour, children’s physical and mental health suffers significantly. Those who work extensive overtime are more likely to drop out of school and forego learning opportunities that could improve their future prospects. They also face risks to their physical and mental health, such as accidents, diseases, and psychological stress.

Children who are required to work may experience stress and anxiety as a result of the difficulty of balancing work and school and the fear of losing their jobs. Moreover, child labour frequently prevents children from attending school regularly. Children who are required to work long hours often lack the time and energy necessary for studying and completing assignments. This could lead to subpar academic performance and limited academic advancement. This may result in a lack of fundamental knowledge and skills that are essential for future success.

In addition, child labour can have a negative impact on a child’s mental health. Emotional anguish, anxiety, depression, and a range of other psychiatric issues can result from early childhood forced labour. Child labour can negatively impact both a child’s physical and mental health.
Young people who are required to work are frequently exposed to hazardous conditions that can result in injuries, illnesses, or even death. Due to their inadequate living conditions, they may also suffer from malnutrition and other health problems. In children who are overworked and malnourished, fatigue, lack of concentration, and other physical symptoms can exacerbate existing mental health issues.

As child labour is frequently stigmatised in many cultures, those who engage in it may also experience feelings of isolation and shame. Child labour may have long-term effects on a child’s mental health. Children who are forced to work may lack self-confidence and self-esteem, making it difficult for them to form healthy relationships in the future. Children who are forced to work in hazardous conditions may sustain injuries or illnesses that impede their academic progress. In addition, emotional trauma suffered by children who have been exploited or abused may hinder their ability to concentrate and learn. Children who work are frequently abandoned, leaving them vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse by adults who prey on their vulnerabilities. They do not understand their legal rights and are unable to defend themselves against physical and sexual abuse. They may be unaware of where to find assistance or fear being punished if they speak up.

Poverty, inadequate legal systems, and weak enforcement practises have impeded efforts to end child labour in Africa. Governments and international organisations have launched campaigns to raise awareness, strengthen laws and regulations, and improve access to social services and education, among other measures, to combat the issue. However, progress has been slow, and many African children are still compelled to work as slaves.

By preventing children from attending school and employing them, child labour contributes to the cycle of poverty. Child labour is a significant obstacle to achieving sustainable development and eradicating poverty because it has devastating effects on the physical, emotional, and mental health of children.

A number of alternatives could be implemented to alleviate the issue of child labour in Africa:

  1. Ensure that children have access to a high-quality education as the first line of defence against child labour. This may include the construction of schools, the provision of school supplies, and the implementation of regulations that support and encourage school attendance.
  2. Since poverty is a significant contributor to child labour, it is also crucial to address poverty. This may involve providing financial assistance to families, enhancing employment opportunities, and establishing social safety nets.
  3. It is essential to enforce and bolster labour laws that prohibit child labour and protect children’s rights. Increasing penalties for businesses that violate these regulations and enhancing monitoring and reporting systems are components of this initiative.
  4. Increasing awareness of the harm that child labour causes to both children and society can aid in the modification of attitudes and behaviours. This category includes campaigns aimed at communities, parents, and employers.
  5. Governments, civil society organisations, and the business sector must collaborate to combat child labour. Working together, the root causes of child labour can be identified, and practical solutions can be developed.

The mental health and well-being of children can be negatively impacted by child labour. It is essential to address the underlying cause and provide assistance and resources. All parties must exert consistent effort and dedication in order to discover these answers. Nevertheless, by addressing the root causes of child labour and defending children’s rights, we can move closer to eradicating this harmful practise in Africa.

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