Training…or Child Labor?

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The book of Proverbs 22:6 in the Holy Bible states, “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.”

This quotation in the Bible coupled with African traditional practices means many Africans– including Liberians– are of the strong belief that raising children in an unsympathetic manner means they shall become independent when they grow into adulthood.

On the other hand, many people, especially those in the business of human rights advocacy, consider African traditional upbringing of children as a cruel, barbaric tradition and a violation of children’s rights.

The typical Liberian believes that rearing children in the customary manner is squarely in the hands of community; hence the African adage that states, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  This means that African children belong to their communities for upbringing, irrespective of tribe or religion.

“This is the result of people burdened with poverty and extreme hardship; with many parents forcing their children into selling in order for the family to have something to eat at the end of the day,” Mr. William Tehtor a communal farmer stressed.

Joseph Flomo, 8, a student of the J. F. Clarke Kindergarten School in Gbarnga, told this paper that it is through the sale of baskets that his father is able to send him to school.  

The J. F. Clarke Kindergarten School is a government-run elementary school situated in the Bad Habit Land Community on the Kokoyah Road in Gbarnga.

“I have to come from school to go and sell the baskets before we can eat anything” Joseph Flomo told the Daily Observer.

He informed this paper that he is the youngest of three and that his mother died as the result of labor complications; leaving behind he, his siblings and his father who is disabled.

Joseph did not reveal the exact location of his two brothers, but was swift to notify this reporter that he is the only child currently living with his father and providing him assistance.

“I should have been in the second grade, but due to my irregularity in class coupled with my engagement with the selling, I have had difficulty with my lessons” Little Joseph Flomo disclosed.

Joseph Flomo indicated that he sells at least ten baskets per day with the cost of L$75 each. L$75 might be US$0.85, loose estimate because the exchange rate is now L$80 to US$1.

An investigation conducted by this paper established that many school going children between the ages of seven to ten years in Gbarnga are involved in street selling despite its publicized government free and compulsory school program.

Even in the face of persistent cries from human rights groups operating in the county condemning the use of minors as bread winners; it appears as if many parents are still making use of their children to contribute to their household incomes.

Many parents who spoke to the Daily Observer attributed the rising number of street selling children to the high cost of living.

Nyamah Dolo, a mother of five told this reporter that her children are selling not because of extreme hardship but what she termed as “training” so that they would not be beggars or liabilities to society.

“You see me, my mother reared me the hard way, this is the reason I am on my own” Nyamah emphasized.

Another mother, Korto Kollie, a former teacher, stressed that due to the current economic insecurity in the country, specifically in rural Liberia, many parents engaged their children in petit business in order to provide some financial stability to the home.

“If the children do not sell, how will the home be stable when the man (husband) is unemployed?” she asked.

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