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Combating child labour through unconditional cash transfer

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Combating child labour through unconditional cash transfer

Recent statistics jointly released by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and development partners revealed that rather than attain basic education, a little above 50 per cent of Nigerian children are caught up in one form of child labour or the other. REGINA OTOKPA writes on ongoing efforts to reduce the menace and educate more girls, especially in the North.

 

Seated on the floor staring eagerly at their class teacher, the future of about 48 young girls in a classroom in New Rimawa Model Primary School in far away Goronyo Local Government Area of Sokoto State might have hit a turning point.

Aminat Husseni, mother to two of the girls, formerly had more faith in the fura and groundnut her female children, Khadijat and Birikisu, hawked in the community to bring in money into the family, rather than see them receive basic education in school like their three brothers.

This is the typical scenario in the North, where most girls within the age of 5 -14 are involved in economic activities such as working as maids, shop helps and street hawkers. This deprives them of opportunities for schooling and development as the not-so-fortunate girls are soon married off to much older men at an early age.

Dangers of girl-child labour

The incidence of girl-child labour in Nigeria is largely fueled by poverty, rapid urbanisation, breakdown in extended family affiliations, high demand for domestic maid and sex, lack of enforcement of legal instruments meant to protect children as well as the norm of using children as errand pages by secluded women or mothers in rural Muslim communities.

The money earned by child family members, who are forced to work for their families’ survival, has become a significant part of poor families’ income. This entails work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children, and could expose them to untimely death, sexual assault, child abuse, missing classes, lack of parental care and exploitation, falling into the hands of traffickers, crime, and lack of employee benefit as the work of the girl child is not recognized by law.

Poised to changing the narrative, the United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) introduced an unconditional initiative called the Cash Transfer Programme (CTP) supported by UK Department for International Development (DFID) and Qatar Foundation in Sokoto, Zamfara Kebbi, Katsina and Niger States, in order to cut down the numbers of girl child labour and out-ofschool- girl burden in the northern region.

Understanding the CTP

The Cash Transfer Programme is a two-year unconditional cash intervention initiative implemented under the Girls Education Project Phase 3 (GEP3) in 2014 by UNICEF in Sokoto and Niger states to woo girls to attain basic education, while improving the socioeconomic status of their family, by giving a N5, 000 incentive per term to the female caregiver of any girl-child between the age of 6 – 11 who is registered in school.

According to UNICEF Education Specialist in Nigeria, Azuka Menkiti, the initiative is targeted at reaching half a million children who are missing education due to poverty, socio-cultural and economic barriers, by reducing the burden on parents in order to enhance enrollment and retainment levels in school. Speaking at a CTP media dialogue in Sokoto, she explained that although basic education was officially tagged free, the reality on ground shows that parents were still confronted with education-related costs; direct, indirect and opportunity costs, which comes with an implication, posing as a barrier on the demands for education. Such includes tuition fees, examination fees, sport fees, stationery, books, snacks or food and the loss of child labour.

“Poverty is a key reason why children especially girls, are not attending primary school. The unconditional CTP is specifically designed to support families with the direct and opportunity costs of children’s education especially girls,” she said.

The programme, which has extended to Zamfara and Kebbi States with an increase in the cash released to beneficiaries per term (N8,000, has been reeling in a lot of success stories from development partners, the benefiting state governments and the direct beneficiaries.

Impacts of cash transfer

Since the inception of the initiative in the selected states, there has been a significant increase in the income of poor households, the health indices has improved, and most importantly, there has been a tremendous surge in the reduction of girl-child labour, resulting in an increase in enrollment of children especially girls, in benefiting communities.

Thus, the music has changed for Goronyo and every other community in the North, lucky to be a part of the CTP, which has changed the livelihood of thousands.

Menkiti explained that the income of poor households has increased to 15.9 per cent and 12.6 per cent in Niger and Sokoto States, even as the change in average weekly income of caregivers in Niger and Sokoto States was N1,123.40 and N419.91 respectively. Evidence from the results of the analysis attests to the effectiveness of the CTP in removing financial barriers to girls’ enrolment and attendance at school in Niger and Sokoto States.

“68.9 per cent and 60.7 per cent of caregivers interviewed in Niger and Sokoto States respectively stated that the CTP has to a very large extent helped in removing financial barriers to girls’ enrolment and attendance at school. According to the Sokoto state CTP Coordinator, Mamuda Galadima, the programme has lifted a total of 11,341 girls from the act of street hawking in six local government areas of the state, and also boosted girls’ enrolment in school to 79 per cent between 2014 and 2016 revealed. Given this success story, the Sokoto state government has since commenced a sustainability plan to capture an additional 10,106 beneficiaries across the state within the next two years.

In a like manner, the Niger State Coordinator of the programme, Idris Azika, added that 12,911 beneficiaries were reached in 251 communities between 2014 and 2016. According to him, when the Niger government observed the CTP was reducing street hawking for girls in target local government areas, 193 million was allocated to sustain the programme in the next four years.

During a field trip to New Rimawa model primary school in Goronyo, one of the benefiting communities, the Headmaster of the school Yusuf Abubakar, disclosed that the number of girls enrolled in the school had increased from 200 to over 600 because, “UNICEF is giving parents financial assistance, it is making children to stop hawking and they now allow them to come to school.”

Parents’ opinion

Addressing the worry that parents will withdraw their daughters from school to be back on the streets once the cash flow stops, a mother of a pupil in Rimawa Model Primary School and a beneficiary of the Cash Transfer Programme, Hauwa Rafila, said when she receives the money via cash transfer for her daughter; all items of education such as books, socks, school bag, school sandals were bought and the remaining used to take care of the family through petty trading.

“Out of the money they gave us we bought all the school things needed including school sandals, socks and other things like bag. We want to use the remaining money to be buying detergent that they will use to be washing their uniforms and I have also started small business so that I can support my daughter’s education and as well take care of the family,” she said.

Two of the fathers, Tsalha Liman and Suleiman Agada, whose daughters were formerly engaged in street hawking of groundnut and tiger nuts commonly known as Aya, said although they initially refused to allow their daughters to be a part of the programme, they succumbed when they saw its positive impact on the livelihood of other families who embraced the CTP immediately introduced.

Worried if they will retain their daughters in school once the cash flow stops, Liman said, “Though some families may decide to withdraw their daughters, we both don’t have a problem with our children completing their education. We have seen the benefits allowing our children go to school instead of selling on the streets.”

No little wonder the United States Embassy Labour Attaché in Nigeria, Mirna Torres during a working visit to the minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris. Ngige, noted that there was a significant decrease in the rate of child labour in Nigeria. Reacting, Ngige explained that dwelling on other measures, work was in progress on National Child Labour Policy to discourage out-of-school phenomenon and set penalties for defaulting parents saying, “We are leaving no stone unturned in eliminating child labour as a fundamental step in promoting decent work.

You cannot talk of decent work when you have under-aged children dropping out of school and joining the workforce in mining, agriculture and others. Even in agriculture where our tradition permits children to assist parents in the farm, there must be a limit,” he said.

The Minister further reiterated his request at the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) conference in September 2016 for the United States to provide technical and possibly, material assistance to Nigeria for an efficient labour inspection, occupational safety, health and in the elimination of child labour. According to the 2017 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) jointly conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and development partners including UNICEF, though more paramount in the North, child labour is practiced in every part of the country.

The NorthCentral region was identified with the highest burden of 56.8 per cent, followed closely by the North-West accounting for 55.1 per cent. South-South has 48.7 per cent, the North East recorded 47.2 per cent, South-East 46.6 per cent, and South-West 38 per cent, respectively.

Last line

Given the visible impact of incentives in drawing children from the dangers associated all forms of child labour to attaining basic education for the overall good of the north and the country in general, the best cards for state governments is to emulate and implement this intervention strategy in every part of the state including urban areas, to further eliminate the menace of out-of-school children, while the National Child Labour Policy is being awaited.

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