Leaving the gold mining site and going back to school: Eliminating child labour in Nigeria

In the small village of Kuchiko, the ILO ACCEL Africa project is helping young girls like Maimunat go back to school and pursue their dreams. The project is also supporting parents like Haruna Koko to earn an income and reduce the need to resort to child labour.

Article | Kuchiko, Nigeria | 02 June 2023
In Nigeria, more than half of the population lives in poverty, and about 43 percent of Nigerian children between the ages 5 and 11 are estimated to be involved in economic activities. Maimunat Abdullahi (15) is no stranger to these difficulties. She used to work at a gold mining site in Kuchiko, a village situated around 41 kilometers away from Nigeria’s capital Abuja. In her community, poverty, child marriage, and low levels of awareness about the negative effects of child labour are some of the factors that push children into precarious working conditions instead of allowing them to go to school.

I wanted to help my parents, now I aspire to help others in my community

When I was selling food, some of the miners ate and did not pay. If you talk, they will threaten to beat you or deny you the money all together.."

Maimunat started selling food at the mining site with the sole aim of helping her parents feed the family amidst extreme poverty. Her parents while also working at the mining site, they are mainly petty traders of raw food items, but the income they generate is not sufficient to meet the needs of the family. Initially, they were supportive of Maimunat's willingness to support them by selling food at the mining site, as it meant more food at their table. However, Maimunat’s parents soon became concerned about the risks involved in the mining site. Despite these challenges, Maimunat continued to sell food at the site, enduring long hours and the risk of not getting paid by some of the miners.

When asked about her future aspirations, Maimunat expressed a desire to become a nurse so she can care for sick people in her community.

Maimunat’s father Haruna Koko is also a worker at the gold mining site. Unable to afford school clothes and materials encouraged his two children to support the family by working in the mining site. His children were assisting the miners in the mining site, but they never liked it and always wished to go back to school. Haruna Koko reported that many of the children in their community sometimes sleep in the bush instead of coming home. Although he was unhappy with the fact that children had to work, he also knew that they were fighting a difficult battle against poverty.

With the help of the ACCEL Africa project, Maimunat received uniforms, sandals, socks, exercise and textbooks to address support her return to school. Haruna Koko received skills training and he and other adults within his community received start-up kits to create and boost their business. With this support, they could generate a higher income and even save for emergencies.

They never liked it but never had a choice. They have always wanted to go back to school, but we could not afford it.."

Haruna Koko
When asked about his goals and dreams for his own children, Haruna Koko said that he wanted his kids to sustain the tempo in school, complete their education to tertiary level, and do far better than he ever could.

Thanks to the ACCEL Africa project, Haruna Koko learned that there is no future in child labor because it denies the child the opportunity to access quality education.

Building the children’s future through education

Thankfully, in 2018, the NGO Esteemhub worked with the ILO ACCEL Africa project to advance the elimination of child labour in the Kuchiko community. In Nigeria, the project > focuses on improving the legal, policy and institutional frameworks to eliminate child labour in gold and cocoa supply chains.

Their intervention spanned a wide range of activities, from advocacy campaigns to raise awareness about the harmful effects of child labour, to engagement with the grassroots community-based organisations to set up monitoring mechanisms for child labour. ACCEL Africa and Esteemhub also re-enrolled children back to school by giving them start-up kits and educational materials, and conducted skills acquisition programmes for children of legal working age.

This support from ACCEL Africa and Esteemhub helped children like Maimunat go back to school. Children in the Kuchiko community received uniforms, bags, sandals and socks, exercises and text books. With these materials, Maimunat was now ready to pursue her education. She said that going back to school not only gave her knowledge in important subjects such as mathematics, English and biology, but also improved her confidence and self-esteem. Someday, Maimunat wants to be a doctor so that she could help the sick people in her community.

When ACCEL Africa came, they helped our children with books, school uniforms, shoes and so on. Because of this, our children are now putting deliberate efforts to attend school. For us, the parents, it gave us joy, peace of mind… Now we are living peacefully with our children. They attend school and we go to work. Everything is running smoothly."

Haruna Koko
Parents like Haruna Koko are equally happy. ACCEL Africa and Esteemhub provided adults like him with start-up kits to boost their businesses. These include among others crushing machines for agricultural products, which supported them to improve productivity with reduce labout force. With this equipment, parents like earn more money and even save some of it in the bank, eliminating the need for their children to work and support their families.

The members of the Kuchiko community were grateful for the opportunity to provide their children with schooling materials and to steer them away from dangerous work in the gold mining site. Reflecting on the impact of the intervention on his village, Haruna Koko shares, “If we can get other organisations to do what ACCEL Africa is doing, then the problem of child labour would be wiped out in the nation and in the whole word.”