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by Timmy, Nigeria Mar 19, 2004
Child & Youth Rights   Short Stories


She stood by the side of the road gazing at the cars as they whizzed by, first blurred images, then specks receding in the distance. There was something maniacal about them, as they accelerated past, pursued by demons the little girl could not see. As they went past, the wind, displaced by the speeding vehicles, rushed to the side of the road, lifted up her skirt and exposed her grim underwear under the cheap blouse and skirt plastered onto her skinny frame; on the scrawny chest where two little distended orbs announced her brave assault of the gates of womanhood.

She stood, very oblivious to the noise of the speeding cars heading for destinations obviously more glamorous than the one room hole she shared with her parents and the ever increasing brood; at the last count, there were six of them. Neither the lashing of the wind nor the clouds speeding across the sky, chased by rain seemed to make any impression on her. If she was aware of the presence of others who stood beside her also waiting for a break in the sea of traffic to dash across expressway, she did not acknowledge it. She was completely still, her hand holding the tray of oranges on her head was rock steady.

Actually, she needed to concentrate on the road and the vehicles. At this place, the Anthony bus stop along the Oshodi expressway, another hawker, a boy running after a car with some shirts was knocked down and killed by a hit and run a few meters from where she stood. This was about two months before. The corpse mangled beyond recognition, a parody of the healthy, cheerful looks of the vibrant young man it once was. The corpse had, in the typical fashion, been left by the road for a day and she had avoided the spot for days.

On her face the intense frown of concentration remained. Perhaps she was thinking of the kids she saw every day on their way to school looking bright and neat in their uniforms. Perhaps she realized that they are no older than she. Whatever her thoughts were, she stood still, like a sculptured figure watching the world and her life go by, for God knows her long her life would be the same. She would leave home in the morning and until 9 p.m. or thereabout; she would be at the mercy of man and the elements. The rain would fall in sleets drenching her to the bone; the sun would shine with ferocious intensity, savaging forcing all moisture in her body through the pores in torrents of sweat. Cold and heat, night and day, lecherous old men, armed robbers, young men who prefer to pay for oranges in the privacy of their bed rooms; those were the conditions and inhabitants of her world.

Certainly, the beautiful intelligent children who appeared on television the other day, during the children's day concert were children whose welfare was eons away from her reality. She saw them occasionally, eyes pressed against the windscreens of their posh cars, they gazed with wonder or contempt at her world so crude and different form theirs.

Still she stood, for a moment, a sculptured indictment of a society, which pays lip service to high ideals, yet allowed her and other children to face the ravage of so much hunger and abuse.

Suddenly there was a respite, a break in the relentless motion of cars. The little girl suddenly comes alive and darts across the road. A young man was waiting, beckoning her to come over with her oranges. On his face was a sly smile. He was not looking at the oranges; or perhaps the small ones on her chest.

The message is clear. Child labour must end.



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Child Labour
Samson Nduleme Onwusonye | Mar 24th, 2004
Can child labour ever come to an end? Nothing, as they say, is impossible. But by God some things are very close to impossible. One of such things is the abolition of child labour. When slave trade was coming to a halt most American farmers were alarmed and they did all they could to fight back. That is exactly what we are facing in the country, except in this case no one is really interested in arresting the ugly trend. The basic reason why child labour is becoming a perennial ache in the society is because the law looks the other way! Some say labour is expensive but I think it’s just an excuse to have a kid work for you for next to nothing. The moment a policy on the obliteration of child labour comes takes effect and is enforced, Nigerians would readjust. Street trading, especially amongst kids would be a thing of the past and children working in farms and factories would be remembered no more.

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