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Background to the Study

Child labour and school attendance has become a topical and growing issue to children, the family, schools, journalists, psychologists, sociologists, politicians, philanthropists, counsellors, literary artists and the society at large. Education in Nigeria is compulsory for a child that is below the age of 14. The National Policy on Education (1998), revised three years after the 1995 Beijing Declaration, clearly stated in Section 1 Sub-section 4c of the National Policy on Education (2004) “that every Nigerian child  shall have a right to equal educational opportunities irrespective of any real or imagined disabilities……” (p.7). In pursuance of this, in September 1999, the President of Nigeria (Chief Olusegun Obasanjo) launched the new Universal Basic Education (UBE) plan that requires the first nine years of schooling to be free and compulsory (Education For All, 2001) the plan aims at improving the relevance, efficiency, and quality of schools and to create programmes to address the basic educational needs of nomadic and out–of–school children, youth and adults (Felix, 1999). In its 2000 budget, the government of Nigeria budgeted 46million naira (US$ 230,000) to support this plan (EFA, 2000).

School attendance is a measure of the number of time a child is present in school. This shows clearly the amount or period of time a child comes to school. The amount is measured with the document called school register. The school register which consists of name, admission number of the child is marked both morning and afternoon on a daily and weekly basis. Regular attendance indicates that the pupil is not under the threat of child labour. Another dimension of school attendance is completely staying away from school as a result of child labour. In this case, children are made to stay away from school by their parents in preference for hawking or domestic servitude.

Even though, recent school attendance rates are unavailable for Nigeria, enrolment rates indicate a level of commitment to education. However, they do not always reflect a child’s participation in school (Country Reports 2000). Gross primary school enrolment declined in Nigeria from approximately 86.2 percent in 1993 to 70.3 percent in 1996 (UNESCO, 2000) and the ratio increased in 2000 to about 118.5. Also, there seems to be a low gross and net school enrolment and attendance in Nigeria. Dropout rates for both males and females in primary school remained high, around 10 to 15 percent between 1990 and 1994 for each level of education. Only 64 percent of the pupils in primary school completed class six, and only 43.5 percent continued on to junior secondary school (Country Reports, 2000). Also there are reports of a bias against girl-child education, particularly in rural northern areas of Nigeria that only 42 percent of rural girls enrolled in schools compared with 72 percent of urban girls and that in the north, girls are often withdrawn from schools and placed into early marriages, domestic and agricultural labour, or commercial activities such as trading and street hawking.

The world demographic profile shows that Nigeria is the tenth most populous country represents one-fifth of the population of the Africa continent. Various population censuses have consistently shown that children between 0-14 years constitute a significant proportion of the population of Nigeria. The first census, conducted in 1962 – 63, showed that out of 55.7 million people, 43.1% were children. The result of the 1991 population count indicates that out of about 88.6 million people, about 45% were children between 0-14 years. The details of the 2006 census show that children constitute quite a percentage of the nation’s population which shows that children represent a significant proportion of Nigeria’s population.

This child – related demographic data have led to increased calls for a separate government ministry to handle issues related to the welfare of children through which some rights of the child can be guaranteed. The UN General Assembly International Convention of Civil and Political Rights resolution in 1996, article 24 of The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the child (to which Nigeria is a signatory), the Child Rights Act approved by the Nigeria Parliament which adopts the UN convention and the AU Charter on the Rights of the Child all stipulated that “the child is entitled to receive free and compulsory education, and shall be protected against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation”.

The achievement of the Child’s Right Act in education has suffered serious setback, especially in the countries of Sub-Sahara Africa as a result of the current global economic crisis. This has hit hard on the ‘dependent economy’ of Sub-Sahara African countries with the resulting consequences for the welfare of Nigerian children. The poor welfare of the Nigeria child is an effect of the socio-economic conditions of their parents. Various reports have shown that Nigerian children are increasingly engaging in alternative jobs (child labour) for survival.

The compulsory, free Universal Basic Education Act (2004) provides for free and compulsory education for children until the age of 15. The Federal Constitution of Nigeria (1999) also provides for free and compulsory primary education “when practicable”. However, the term “practicable” introduces ambiguity in the concept of free universal compulsory education, which does not yet fully exist in Nigeria. Although,  the laws provides for free and compulsory education but it is not systematically enforced, so children are more likely to enter the worst forms of child labour in order to pay for their school fees and fend for their immediate families. The inadequate facilities, school fees and child labour may also deter enrolment and school attendance (US, Department of State, 2012).

One of the aims of the Millennium Development Goal on Education is to provide “all children with access to education”. This is an important goal because it is believed that through qualitative modern formal education, future generation will have the ability to reduce or put an end to world poverty and help to achieve worldwide peace and security. The goal of education for all children, so agreed, could only be achieved through a systematically organized school system, with regulated periods of education, a standardized curriculum and content. The situation with children may not have improved considering various reports from officials of government agencies, non-governmental agencies, international donor agencies and other stakeholders involved in the welfare of children.

However, about 15% of students dropped out of school because they could not keep up with class work, having missed too many days and not being able to catch up with their studies at school. This report states that most children drop out of school within a few years before completing primary school or a few years into secondary school. While some experience significant academic challenges resulting from truancy and lack of required academic materials, most students could have succeeded in school if everything is made available. A 2006 study of the International Labour Organization (ILO) found a staggering fifteen million children under the age of 14 engaged in various forms of child labour across Nigeria. These children were exposed to long hours of work in dangerous, unhealthy and competitive environment. This, according to the reports, results from the inability of parents and government to fully take responsibility for the child’s welfare. Real life experiences have shown that governments at all levels have failed to provide totally free qualitative education for children. The situation has continued to worsen as a result of the current global economic crisis. In 2000, Nigeria joined over 170 countries that met in Dakar, Senegal to reaffirm their commitment to deliver education for all citizens by 2015.

Information posted on the Internet by African Press on 25 April 2008, quoted the Nigerian Minister of Education, who said “it was lamentable that about eleven million children, out of which 4.7 million were of primary school age and 5.3 million of secondary school age, roamed the streets in the country” and were engaged in all forms of child labour to support their education and family household. A newspaper article in PUNCH of 25 March, 2008, credited to the media advisory unit of UNICEF, indicated that “no less than 10 million children of school age are out of school in Nigeria” (UNICEF, 2009).

In 2006, key UNICEF data showed that an estimated 93 million children worldwide is subjected to violence, exploitation, abuse and child labour. The report showed an estimated 93 million children of primary school age were not attending school. UNICEF reported in 2006 that Nigeria children, some of whom either had not attended school formally or who had dropped out of school, were engaged in various forms of labour either for their education or to support their family households. Specifically, report data showed that Nigerian children work in the following occupations: Street hawking (64%), Domestic servitude (13%), Shoe shiners (4%), Car washers (6%), Scavengers (5%) and foot washers (8%) (UNICEF, 2009). These children are engaged in alternative jobs to support their schooling, parents and guardians.

Child labour remains a major source of concern in Nigeria, in spite of legislative measures. All efforts at stopping this exploitative and hazardous phenomenon have proved abortive. According to the International Labour Organization (2010), the number of ‘working children’ under the age of 14 in Nigeria is estimated at 15million. The high level of diverse and tedious jobs children execute in dangerous circumstances is particularly worrisome. These jobs include being street hawkers, beggars, car washers or watchers and shoe shiners. Others work as domestic servants – mechanics, hair dressers and bus conductor and a large number work as ‘farm hands’.

Child labour refers to ‘work carried out to the detriment of the child, mentally, physically, socially and morally’. It is characterized by denial of the right of children to education and other opportunities; children’s separation from their families; and poor working conditions. The poor working conditions include; long working hours, poor working environment, heavy work regardless of age and sex; and so on. In the same vein Dunapo (2002) states emphatically that child labour occurs when children are exposed for long hours in a dangerous, life threatening and unhealthy environment with too many responsibilities for their age.

Child labour is not limited to sub-Saharan Africa, it goes beyond the region. The experience is different depending on the kind of child labour such a person could be involved which ranges from domestic labour, hawking, prostitution. Major causes of child labour are widespread poverty, rapid urbanization, breakdown in extended family affiliations, high school dropout rates, and lack of enforcement of legal instruments meant to protect children. Traditionally, children are made to work with their families because there is dignity in labour, but today children are forced to work for their own and their family survival. The money earned 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 socialization, exposure to risk of sexual abuse and high likelihood of being involved in crimes.

In Nigeria, primary school children are well known for hawking in the streets and domestic services. To help their parents, the kids sell goods such as towels, plastics, and leather bags, chairs and such other items. Some pupils spend time hawking and doing domestic services during school sessions in order to get money to either pay for their school fees or to help their family. But some of them who made huge income eventually consider the need to drop out of school instead of wasting time in the school and prefer to continue when the school resumes.

According to United States Department of Labour (USDL) (2012) in 2012, Nigeria made minimal advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labour. The National Steering Committee for the Elimination of the Worst Form of Child Labour in Nigeria (NSCWEWFCLN) appointed a committee to identify child labour and they came with the findings that child labour involves hazardous tasks or work. The steering committee also supported the development of curriculum to increase the capacity of school teachers and managers who work with the Almajiri (children who are often forced into begging after being sent to study and live with Islamic Scholars) through the Almajiri Education Programme. Gap remained in legislation, such as a minimum age that falls below international standards, and in social protection programme. In addition, the number of labour inspectors and inspections decreased during the period, children in Nigeria continued to engage in the worst forms of child labour, particularly domestic service (servitude) and street hawking.

Despite several measures to combat child labour, it continues unabated and remains great concern in Nigeria. The Nigeria Child’s Rights law which took into account the Rights of the Child guaranteed in the United Nations’ Convention in the Rights of the Child was passed in law in 2003. But 10 years after its incorporation in the Nigeria law, the child labour situation has worsened as millions of children are still engaged in child labour activities. The International Labour Organization estimates that about 25 percent of Nigeria’s 80million children under the age of 14 are involved in child labour (Akomolafe, 2014).

In a similar vein, Conditional Cash Transfer Service (CCTS), programme (a 3 year pilot scholarship programme) in partnership with ESSPIN-UKAID), the World Bank and Kano State Ministry of Education to support girls transiting from primary to junior secondary school, is to stop Street hawking. The CCTS is a small cash payment made to the families of girls to cover the incidental costs of attending schools (e.g. Uniforms, stationery) and offset the lost income from street hawking, keep them off the street and safe from the physical and psychological abuse they may encounter while hawking. This has affected enrolment, attendance and performance significantly, though hawking remains part and parcel of children in Kano in particular and in Nigeria in general.

According to the 2010 Nigeria Education Survey and Digest of Education Statistics (NEDS) reported witnessed by Vice President Namadi Sambo, 21% of children of age 5-16 cannot read at all in the South-west compared to 31% in the south-south, 32% in the south-east, 58% in the North-central 42%, North-west 61% and North-east 73%.Efforts by the government to deliver free and compulsory education to Nigeria children at primary and junior secondary school level through the Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme launched in 1999 has so far been ineffective. The public schools lack basic infrastructure and are therefore not conducive for effective teaching and learning. The slow adoption and non-enforcement of the Child Rights Act in some states of the federation as well as high level of poverty continue to worsen the plight of the Nigerian child (Nsisong & Eme, 2012).

Basic or primary education is the bedrock and foundation of our educational system. This prompted the Federal Government of Nigeria to declare free and compulsory primary education to all Nigerian child irrespective of their socio-economic status as stated in National Policy on Education (2004), yet most pupils are seen during school hours hawking and highly involved in domestic servitude. Secondly, experience is the best teacher. The researcher had the experience of hawking during her primary education days. This gives the researcher the urge to carry out a thorough investigation on the problem of child labour and school attendance to really verify if child labour has relationship with school attendance. Thirdly, in view of the increasing global emphasis on school attendance, there is the need to systematically examine the relationship between school attendance and child labour.

Statement of the Problem

Historically, hawking appears to be part of Nigerian culture and understandingly so. Nigeria being among the poorest economies of the world with the accompanying  effects of unemployment, poor infrastructural facilities and lack of human empowerment, has seen most of her population living in abject poverty, therefore, because of the low social–economic status of most families in Nigeria and the high rate of poverty, most parents cannot help but push their children into the streets where they spend long hours, at the mercy of environmental elements selling pure water (Sachet water), fruits, confectioneries, beverages and such other items, so that the proceeds may contribute to family upkeep (Nsisong & Eme, 2012). This situation is alarming because street hawking in the form of child labour and servitude (child domestics) among primary school pupils is on the increase in Esanland in Edo State. The problem emanating from the practice of child labour by any society is related to academic performance and school attendance of pupils.

Researches show that child workers display poor school attendance and educational achievements. They also suffer the triple burden of house work, school work and work out of home whether paid or unpaid. Two of the most common practices are street hawking by children and child domestics (servitude). According to Nsisong and Eme (2012) street hawking and servitude (child domestic) has significantly contributed to truancy and low school attendance among children of school age. His position was corroborated by Ekpenyong & Sibiri (2011) who found that the prevalence of street hawking is proliferating among children of school age and must be addressed as a national emergency situation. He posited that the proliferation of hawking and servitude among children in primary school have resulted in low school attendance and drop out among them.

Records and experiences have shown that the poor school attendance of primary school pupils has reached an alarming level. The phenomenon has persisted despite efforts of government and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to eradicate it through advocacy. There are few studies on the relationship between child labour and school attendance in Edo State and none in Esan land. This is why this study is necessary as questions need to be asked concerning the prevalence of child labour and how it affects school attendance among primary school pupils. Also, inquiries need to be made into the relationship between child labour and school attendance. In this regard, could hawking and domestic servitude be significant predictors of school attendance among primary school pupils in Esan land?

Purpose of the Study

The overall aim of the study is to examine the relationship between child labour and school attendance among primary school pupils in Esan land. The specific objectives of the study are to:

  1. ascertain the relationship between hawking and primary school attendance among primary school pupils in Esan land.
  2. ascertain the relationship between hawking and male school attendance in Esan land.
  3. determine the relationship between hawking and female school attendance in Esan land.
  4. ascertain the relationship between servitude and primary school attendance among primary school pupils in Esan land.
  5. determine the relationship between servitude and male school attendance in Esan land.
  6. find out the relationship between servitude and female school attendance in Esan land.

Research Questions

The following research questions guided the study:

  • Is there any relationship between hawking and school attendance among primary school pupils in Esan land?
  • Is there any relationship between hawking and school attendance among male Primary school pupils in Esan land?
  • Is there any relationship between hawking and school attendance among female Primary school pupils in Esan land?
  • Is there any relationship between servitude and school attendance among primary school pupils in Esan Land?
  • Is there any relationship between servitude and school attendance among male primary school pupils in Esan land?
  • Is there any relationship between servitude and school attendance among female primary school pupils in Esan land?


The following hypotheses were tested in the study.

  • There is no significant relationship between hawking and school attendance among primary school pupils in Esan land.
  • There is no significant relationship between hawking and school attendance among male primary school pupils in Esan land.
  • There is no significant relationship between hawking and school attendance among female Primary school pupils in Esan land.
  • There is no significant relationship between servitude and school attendance among primary school pupils in Esan land.
  • There is no significant relationship between servitude and school attendance among male primary school pupils in Esan land.
  • There is no significant relationship between servitude and school attendance among female primary school pupils in Esan land.

Significance of the Study

The findings of the study would contribute to the body of knowledge and increase information in the area of child labour and school attendance. Therefore, it will be of immense importance to counsellors as it helps in developing appropriate approaches and interventions in managing the menace of child labour. Psychologists will find the study useful in developing interventions for helping primary school pupils out of their worries, while the educational sector in general will find the study useful in formulation of educational policies.

The study will also be of benefit to parents and guardians of primary school pupils. The parents and guardians will be conscious of the ill-treatment of their children and wards, and stop indulging them in child labor. It will also reduce the act of exposing their children to truancy and other vices associated with child labour, and ultimately embrace the fact that child labour is an infringement in the dignity of a child.

The study will be of great assistance to the federal, state and local government ministries of education and social welfare department (policy makers) in having a clearer perception of the causes of child labour and relationship between child labour and school attendance. Moreso, it will also highlight variables that cause child labour and its effects on school attendance, and will be of benefit to education service providers with a view to ensuring that strong advocacy is put in place to reduce or eradicate child labour. The study will enable educational policy makers to make policies and enabling legislations that will help in reducing or eradicating child labour. This will help in increasing school attendance. Lastly, findings would help educational service providers-educators with a more provoked finding of the study to engage in more research work on child labour and school attendance.

Scope of the Study

This study is designed to examine the relationship between child labour and school attendance among primary school pupils in Esan land. The scope of this study is limited to hawking and servitude and irregularity in the area of school attendance. Though, there are other aspects of child labour such as child prostitution, child trafficking, and sexual exploitation, scavengers and bus conductors among other; but, this work is limited to hawking and servitude because they are the most noticed and practiced in this area.

Three schools were chosen from each local government area of Esan land, two sited in the urban areas, while one in the rural areas. The population was also restricted to primary 3-6 pupils which are the higher classes of primary education who will be able to respond to the questionnaire based on their experiences

Limitations of the Study

Essentially, the study focuses on examining the relationship between child labour and school attendance among primary school in Esan land of Edo State. The population of the study consists of public primary school pupils in Esan land. The study covers pupils in primary 3 – 6 while those in primary 1 – 2 were excluded. The study uses primary 3 – 6 because pupils within this range can at least read and write to some extent and are able to respond to the questionnaire while pupils in primary 1-2 were excluded because they might not be able to read and understand the question and so may be unable to express their feelings appropriately. Because of the small geographical area covered and the educational level of the pupils, generalization may be limited. In addition, time and finance were also major problems encountered by the researcher.

Operational Definition of Terms

The following terms were operationally defined in the study:

Child labour refers to the employment of children in any work that deprives children of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school, and that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful.

Hawking – This is the act of selling goods and services from one place to another in seeking buyers for their wares.

Servitude –This is the involvement of a child in rendering strenuous services at home, street as domestic servants.

School attendance-A record to show regularity and irregularity or outright withdrawal from school of a child

Esan land –This refers to Central Senatorial District of Edo State which is promptly dominated by Esan people.


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