The children

Early years

Primary school years



Child labour

Girl hawking food items
© UNICEF Nigeria/2007/Nesbitt
A school age girl in Northern Nigeria hawks food items during the windy dusty harmattan season

Child labour remains a major source of concern in Nigeria, in spite of legislative measures. Child labour is defined as work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children and deprives them of opportunities for schooling and development.

According to the International Labour Organization, the number of working children under the age of 14 in Nigeria is estimated at 15 million. The high level of diverse and tedious jobs that children execute in dangerous circumstances is particularly worrying. These jobs include being street vendors, beggars, car washers or watchers and shoe shiners. Others work as apprentice mechanics, hairdressers and bus conductors while a large number work as domestic servants and farm hands.

Research also shows that child workers display poor educational achievements. Girls start working at an earlier age than boys, particularly in the rural areas. They also suffer the triple burden of housework, school work and work out of home whether paid or unpaid. One of the most common practices is the use of children as child domestics –especially girls.

Major causes of child labour are widespread poverty, rapid urbanisation, breakdown in extended family afiliations, high school drop out rates, and lack of enforcement of legal instruments meant to protect children. Traditionally, children have worked with their families, but today children are forced to work for their own and their family’s survival. The money earned by child family members has become a significant part of poor families’ income.

These children who work suffer from fatigue, irregular attendance at school, lack of comprehension and motivation, improper socialisation, exposure to risk of sexual abuse, high likelihood of being involved in crime.

Girls hawking
© UNICEF Nigeria/2007/Nesbitt
These young girls should be in school but instead they are in the market hawking food items because their families need the extra income.



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