“Education helps young people know about trending issues like the Sustainable Development Goals, one’s basic right as citizens and how to contribute to government developmental plan”  – 13, Junior

Between 50 and 60 million children between five and 11 worldwide are involved in some form of labour according to the ILO. This labour may threaten their education, health, and safety and too often many of these children are engaged in a manner that is hidden from the public eye or in settings where child labour is considered normal and acceptable.

Amaka, 5, looks after her younger sibling immediately after school, while her twin brother stays at school for extra lessons. Despite this daily routine, her parents never saw it as a form of child labour but rather as a way of preparing her for her future life as a mother. “This is the best time to teach her now that she is young,” her father told me when I met her.

For many concerned with child labour in patriarchal communities, Amaka’s story is familiar and reflects the inter-link of child labour and education, with the limiting of a female child’s access to education as compared to her male counterpart.

As I ponder upon my engagement with Amaka’s father, I spoke with four primary school students between the ages of 10 and 11 about the impact of child labour had on their education.

They told me that they often feel tired during learning hours as they were hawking or burden with extra house chores after school. While their engagement had not forced them to withdraw from school, it was impacting their learning. This made me wonder if this may result in them performing poorly on academic assessments and keeping them from gaining the skills and knowledge needed to help our nation’s economic growth and prosperity.

The simple truth is that over 59 million children of primary school-age across the globe do not have access to basic education, 55 percent of these children are girls and the majority live in Sub-Saharan Africa (UNICEF). Every day, child labour is growing and expanding to different sectors. It is steadily becoming a universal social and economic problem among developing countries but most of the governments are not doing enough to combat it.

These figures are troubling as many of the in-school and out-of-school children in my country are engaged in different types child labour, including agriculture, construction, street hawking, and domestic work. Some of these children are exploited and others are exposed to pregnancy and HIV. Unfortunately, many of these children are voiceless, as politics avoid talking about the real social issues that affect these children.

How long will these children continue to suffer? When will their basic human rights be actualized and defended? What will happen to Amaka?

I sincerely think our government and policymakers are not doing enough. Just talking about child labour in a loud tone is not enough when the laws to address the issue are not being implemented or enforced. I hope that this present administration will say no to child labour and that they will give all children, particularly out-of-school children, access to education, as education is not a privilege – it is a basic human right.

This post was written by Isaac Ejakhegbe and first appeared on Women Deliver

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