The number of child hawkers and other forms of child abuse continue to rise in Anambra State despite the efforts of Governor Peter Obi to remove them from the streets to the classrooms
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Jun. 10, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
CHILD abuse still persists in Anambra State despite the integration of street children into the educational system of the state by Peter Obi, Anambra State governor, a few years ago. The intent of the free education system was to stop the social menace of child abuse and eradicate the use of children of school age either by their parents or guardians for street hawking. But there seems to be no end in sight to the social vice.
The number of under-aged children hawking in the state seems to be increasing each passing day. Ijeoma Ike, a 14-year-old girl from Enugu State, who is living with her mother in Onitsha, said she started hawking after the death of her father three years ago. She said that even though she was supposed to be in secondary school but there is nobody to sponsor her. But rather than being in school, Ijeoma spends most of her time hawking bottled water and soft drinks at Upper Iweka, along the Enugu-Onitsha expressway, to make ends meet. “I am hawking because there is nobody to take care of my mother and siblings since the death of my father,” she said.
Another teenage hawker who identified himself as Jude Egwu, a 13-year-old-boy, said one of his uncles, with whom he is living in Onitsha, brought him from Abakaliki, in Ebonyi State, after promising his parents that he would help them sponsor me in school. But Egwu said rather than being asked to go to school, all his uncle is using him to do is hawking of different types of goods at Upper Iweka. “It was my uncle who brought me to Onitsha. He told my parents I will continue my education in Onitsha. But, since then, I have been hawking different types of goods, mostly seasonal fruits at Upper Iweka on a daily basis, even on Sundays,” he said.
These are just a few out of hundreds of cases of children hawking, begging and engaging in all sorts of menial jobs, against their wishes, on a daily basis across the country. In the metropolis, findings have shown that items which these children hawk in most cases are not more than N1000. Aside from hawking, children between the ages of nine and 15 also engage in learning trades like carpentry, vulcanising, motorcycle repairs, hairdressing, tailoring and cleaning of vehicle windscreens at traffic holdups to earn a living when they should be acquiring basic education.
When Realnews visited the ministry of women affairs in Awka, the state capital, all the efforts to reach the ministry’s spokesperson or the chief press secretary to the governor Obi were unsuccessful. But a recent research conducted by the department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, faculty of Medicine, College of Health Sciences, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, on the problems and consequences of sexual abuse on female street hawkers in Anambra State, revealed that street hawking is common in the state, mostly in the commercial cities.
The research showed that female hawkers between the ages of 12 and 17 years are exposed to sexual abuse. Out of 186 respondents, 130 had been sexually abused with 32 having had penetrative sexual intercourse, 18 were forced and six submitted willingly while hawking. The research revealed that, majority of the sexual partners were adults and that other forms of sexual abuse they experienced include inappropriate touches, 106 cases; and verbal abuses 121 cases. There was low awareness of the twin risks of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections following sexual abuse among the respondents. Sexual abuse of young female hawkers is an issue of great public health importance.
The researchers asserted that children on the streets are exposed to malnutrition, respiratory tract infection, mental illness and substance abused and that the young female hawkers are vulnerable to all forms of violence including sexual exploitation by men. The men prefer young girls as sexual partners because they assume they are sexually inexperienced and as such, are less likely to be infected with sexually transmitted diseases. In a society with poorly developed social network and intervention, many of the girls accept it as their lot and fear being stigmatised if they should report.