One of my colleagues, Esohe, took me to visit one of WOCON’s children centers last Friday. These centers were designed as part of WOCON’s program for the removal and reintegration of child laborers and child domestic servants that I was telling you about a few weeks back. Participating children are offered basic literacy or vocational courses so as to increase their future economic and social prospects.
This particular center was located in a shopping complex not far from the office so Esohe and I jumped on one of the popular city motorcycle called “okada” and sped over there. A few minutes later, we were greeted at the door of a classroom by the smiling face of one of the teachers, Mr. Kazeem. The room itself is small with just the essentials: a blackboard, a couple of chairs and a table.
There were only about four kids present that day but their stories are very similar: most of them were either recruited from their villages by relatives or friends of relatives who promised them greener pastures in the city. Instead, they were dumped as cheap labor in the houses of strangers or worse, left to fend for themselves in the streets of Lagos.
For instance, Lare is 18 and he’s interested in learning about computers. He is from Ife in Osun State, which is just north of Lagos. Times were hard for his family in the village so they encouraged him to leave and to try his luck in one of the major cities. That’s how Lare came to Lagos where he found a job as a domestic worker or “house boy”. He also took on a second job pushing charcoal at a local construction site. When I asked him how many hours he worked in a day, he replied “too much!”. I don’t blame him. He apparently found out about WOCON’s program through friends and seems truly grateful to have a place to study, learn and fallow his interests…like any 18 year old kid should have a right to.
Esohe and I later move on to meet with the instructors of another center which is also close by. This one is exclusively dedicated to kids who are interested in vocational work, especially the arts. The building in question is a bit shabby and there is a big gaping hole in the roof. Nevertheless, the walls in one of the rooms are covered with the children’s drawings and they all look fantastic. These kids apparently have a lot of talent. If only they would have a sufficient chance to take advantage of it.
However, it seems that poverty and the instinct to survive is such that most of the kids targeted by WOCON’s program are actually more interested in making money now than in getting an education or acquiring skills designed for future use. They don’t see why they should spend time on something that does not immediately translated into a source of income. As a result, WOCON should definitely think of stepping up its awareness campaign and seek out more funds to reach out even more to these kids. Maybe WOCON should present real success stories from the community so as to emphasize the important role that an education can play in the future income and wellbeing of these children.
Whatever the strategy used, I think this is a wonderful opportunity for child workers and would truly make a difference if more resources were focused towards it.
Posted By Malia Mayson (Nigeria)
Posted Jul 20th, 2005