By Akanimo Sampson
After two decades of progress, there are growing concerns within the United Nations that child labour will spike as a result of the raging COVID-19 crisis.
This is a menace that commonly affects children in Nigeria due to the harsh economic conditions of most families.
On the streets of the Niger Delta and Eastern Nigeria, it is a common sight to see children hawking to assist their parents and guardians.
362 children (6–17 years of age) from farming households in Nigeria’s oil and gas region were interviewed by researchers.
The research found that children were highly involved in most of the farming activities that are considered hazardous. The reasons given by the farming household heads for the engagement of household children in farming activities included cultural, economic, and political factors.
Most of the children combined schooling and farming activities. The research data showed that there was no significant relationship in the level of involvement of children in agricultural labour between some states in the Niger Delta, but it showed a significant difference in the nature of farming activities in which the children were involved.
The implications of agricultural development are that these conditions will lead to the transmission of agricultural knowledge, technical, and social skills from generation to generation.
It is recommended that a compromise should be reached between schooling and the involvement of children in farming activities; children should always be made to wear protective gear when they carry out hazardous farming operations; and their involvement and technical education in agricultural skills should give them a future positive interest in agriculture as a career/profession.
However, a new brief from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and UNICEF says millions of more children risk being pushed into child labour as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which could lead to the first rise in child labour.
According to COVID-19 and child labour: A time of crisis, a time to act, child labour decreased by 94 million since 2000, but that gain is now at risk.
Global estimates in 2017 showed that 152 million children were in child labour worldwide.
Children already in child labour may be working longer hours or under worsening conditions, the report says. More of them may be forced into the worst forms of labour, which causes significant harm to their health and safety.