These are trying times for half of Liberia’s population predominantly the youths who many believe are the nation’s future leaders amidst the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic coupled with the bad economy.
The rapid spread of the pandemic since its outbreak has caused a serious global economic recession with Liberia being one of the poorest countries in Africa/world thus leading to a high unemployment rate of Liberians.
Prior to the outbreak of covid-19, Liberia was also compounded by the outbreak of the EBOLA epidemic in 2014 coupled with the drastic fall of the country’s major export commodities ranging from rubber, iron ore, gold and diamonds among other resources for years now of which recent statistics from an online platform puts Liberia’s unemployment rate in 2020 at 3.30 percent, with a 0.41 percent increase from 2019.
However, the harsh economic situations experienced by Liberians over the years have promoted many small children to turn into serious laborers for either their biological parents or guardians; something which is referred to as child labor.
Furthermore, child labor is referring to the exploitation of children through any form of work that deprives children of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school and is mentally, physically, socially and morally harmful.
Accordingly, Liberians continue to bear the pinch of this economic hardship since the end of the nation’s darkest days coupled with the EBOLA and COVID-19 pandemic, a situation which has for years now left many children getting involved into the crushing of rocks as well as selling between several moving vehicles thus putting their lives at serious risk.
Due to the situation, some individuals would normally go into various villages taking struggling parents’ children and promising them of providing their children the needed quality education as well as improving their living standard.
Little Angel on a ‘rock field’ in the Zinnah Hill Community carrying a bucket filled with crushed rocks told this paper that it is something that she normally does in order to help her struggling mother buy food for the family as well as pay their house rent.
“I can follow my mother on the rock field every day to assist. When she is done crushing the rock, then I along with my little brother can help our mother by pilling the rock together awaiting buyers,” Angel, 10, explained.
When quizzed as whether she was in school, she explained, “I am not going to school because my mother doesn’t have money to send me to school and my father too is not working.”
Another youth, David Zeon said, “I am 17 years of age and a student. So, this is what I normally do to enable me get food to eat, pay my rent, buy clothes and pay my school fees.”
According to him, crushing rocks is now part of his daily life and has been a serious source of survival since he was brought to Monrovia by his aunt, noting, “This is helping me not to only buy food but to also buy clothes and be able to educate myself for the future.”
He said, “Things have been very difficult. My aunty is not doing anything for me contrary to what she told my parents, and I am thankful to a friend who introduced me to this business and today, I am able to support myself.”
Musu Ballah who is also seen selling between moving vehicles along the SKD Boulevard nearly got hit by a speeding vehicle trying to overtake by using the opposite lane.
According to her, the lady she is currently living with took her from Grand Bassa County, Compound 3 on grounds that she was going to educate her and take good care of her, adding, “But since she brought me, I have not been sent to school but only wants me to sell market.”
“I want to go back to my mother because whole day I can just be selling between cars and she can beat me badly if I lost or take some of the money to buy food and eat. She is very wicked,” the child lamented.
There is an urgent need for national authority to pay serious attention on child labor as this act is now something that is said to be on the increase which many children are now falling prey to. By C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy #SRSHDialogue