TOPIC: ISLAMIC VIEW OF CHILD LABOUR
Audhu billah minash shaytanir rajeem Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem. Alhamdu lil laahi Rabbil aalameen. Was salatu was salamu ala nabiyyillah Muhammad al Mab’uthi rahmatan lil aalameen
The religion of Islam enjoins human beings to work and not to be lazy and that is why Allah says in the Qur’an, Chapter 9:105 “ And say (unto them): Act! Allah will behold your actions, and (so will) His messenger and the believers…. The Prophet (SAW) is reported to have said, “He who gets to bed extremely tired because of his (manual) work (along the day) his sins will be forgiven that night.”
Islam, however, does not want us to overburden our workers, thereby giving our employees too much workload. The instruction of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in this is quite relevant: “ Your employees are your brothers upon whom Allah has given you authority, so if a Muslim has another person under his control, he/she should feed them with the like of what one eats and clothe them with the like of what one wears and you should not overburden them with what they cannot bear and if you do so, help them in their jobs.”
Islam requires that individuals’ rights should be upheld and not trampled upon. The rights of children, no doubt, require more attention and these include not involving them in activities that will affect their childhood. Childhood is principally a period when children are to enjoy their lives through playing and entertainment, and to receive the education and skills that will enable them to lead a successful life in the future.
Each year on 12 June, the World Day brings together governments, employers and workers organizations, civil society, as well as millions of people from around the world to highlight the plight of child labourers and what can be done to help them. The theme of this year’s Day is: Children shouldn’t work in fields, but on dreams!
The term “child labour” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. It refers to work that: is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and interferes with their schooling by: depriving them of the opportunity to attend school; obliging them to leave school prematurely; or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.
The worst forms of child labour involves children being enslaved, separated from their families, exposed to serious hazards and illnesses and/or left to fend for themselves on the streets of large cities – often at a very early age. Whether or not particular forms of “work” can be called “child labour” depends on the child’s age, the type and hours of work performed, the conditions under which it is performed and the objectives pursued by individual countries.
In Nigeria, Child labour is the employment of children under the age of 18 in a manner that restrict or prevent them from basic education and development. Child labour is pervasive in every state of the country. In 2006, the number of child workers was estimated at about 15 million.
Poverty is a major factor that drives child labour in Nigeria. In poor families, child labour is a major source of income for the family. Child workers include street vendors, shoe shiners, apprentice mechanics, carpenters, vulcanizers, tailors, barbers and domestic servants. Many working children are exposed to dangerous and unhealthy environments In August, 2003, the Nigerian government formally adopted three International Labour Organization conventions setting a minimum age for the employment of children. The government also has implemented West African Cocoa Agriculture Project (WACAP). There is a similar incidence of child labour in rural and urban Nigeria.
The US Department of Labour in its 2010 report claims Nigeria is witnessing the worst forms of child labor, particularly in agriculture and domestic service. In rural areas, most children work in agriculture of products such as cassava, cocoa and tobacco. These children typically work long hours and for little pay, with their families. The report claims some children are exposed to pesticides and chemical fertilizers in cocoa and tobacco fields because of archaic farming practices or because they are deployed as forced labour without protective gear. Additionally, street children work as porters and scavengers, and a growing number of them engage in begging. The report claims commercial sexual exploitation of children, especially girls, is also occurring in some Nigerian cities, including Port Harcourt and Lagos.
There is trafficking of children in Nigeria. Child labour is more common among children of illiterates. On average, in the Southwestern zone of Nigeria, there is a higher work burden for working children. Boys tend to earn more. Girls’ non-participation in schooling is more likely affected by parents’ lack of interest than boys’.Non-participation in school is related to poverty. About one third of working children obtain no benefit from their employer. Child labour among pupils frequently impairs schooling.
The Islamic view of child labour can be summarized in the following:
1- Childhood is principally a period when children are to enjoy their lives through playing and entertainment, and to receive the education and skills that will enable them to lead a successful life in the future.
2- There is no harm in assigning children some work that is appropriate to their age and physical capabilities.
3- It is unlawful to employ children in exhausting fields that are beyond their physical abilities, or to make them work all the day without having any kind of fun.
In concluding this sermon, it is important that we appreciate our parents that did not deprive us of our childhood. Parents that ensured that we are in school while some children are on the streets hawking. While some children will have to do some commercial activities early in the morning before going to school, some worse still do not attend school at all. This is a period where we have to commend parents that are striving hard to ensure that their children are not on the streets or in the fields working but rather are in school learning and getting prepared for the future challenge. Employers of labour are also to be remembered here providing the job and ensuring employees are paid as at when due. It is also important to appreciate the efforts of teachers and educational institutions that equipped us with the knowledge, skills and values to be able to fit in the various places of work we are making our incomes.
Bringing it home and a staff of the NASFAT secretariat which the author of this sermon is, it is an obligation to pray for Allah’s reward for the managers of the organization, the NEC in its entirety but the President and General secretary especially for ensuring that staff of the secretariat get their monthly salary before another month begins. All these have a ripple or multiplier effect on the subject of discussion ensuring that resources are readily available to keep our children in school, working on their dreams and not in the fields. May Allah (SWT) reward them all.