Child labor, in spite the weightiness that has come to be attached thereto during the postbellum period, still appears a strange and unheeded phenomenon with non-adherents appearing in large number.
Attributed largely to the cultural way of life of the Liberian people, particularly traditionalists who dare imbue in their wards laziness, daily chores of many children continue to witness their involvement into the daily fetching of water for parents, selling of wares at market sites and in the streets as means of generating income for some parents, fetching of firewood in preparation for the day’s meal, serving as laundry boys or girls, etc.
With most parents considering the enumerated as daily and normal chores for their wards, on premises of adequately preparing them for future leadership roles in society, the ongoing scenario presents itself as a dichotomy that would require more years in arriving at practicable solution.
Whilst the advocacy continues with the hope that that alternative measures would equally be put into place to encourage parents in guiding against child labor abuse, it cannot become a one-stop affair in which the holding of fora amongst parents should be viewed as providing answers.
Indeed a cultural clash evolving from democratic tenets that must be put into place, in order to generate participation, a critical review of the Liberian way of life is worth re-examination, since the concept flourishes concomitantly with the cultural practices of the people.
Traditionalists, without amplification, uphold that in spite their willingness to adapt to Western culture when the need be, pattern that has over the decades fast taken on the lives of many youths in the country to the point of denying their own culture, a visit to the political sub-divisions of the country would render visible how children of good parentage unexpectedly perform other chores that are pleasing to parents.
For example, considering most parents residing upcountry to be actively engaged into agricultural production, a good and well-trained child would be fond of waking early from bed to fetch water for elderly parents, even before proceeding to school. At the end of the period, except for the few now-generation who prefer to merry-make by paying less attention to the regular chores but expect the parents to satisfy all of their needs, the farm road becomes the way forward in continuingly assisting with whatever work is available, not forgetting to bring along firewood.
Culturally, children found active in completing these chores are considered to be strong and stand great chance of been cared for.
On the other extreme, adherents to child labor especially in city centers, including Monrovia, as has since proven, are vulnerable to societal ills since their preoccupation with other activities that may have no meaningful contributions to the family’s growth.
A survey of communities in cities would convincingly establish the fact of the involvement of most children in the watching of X-rated movies, sporting and night-clubbing activities that are characterized with begging, something uncommon on the countryside that has kept parents keeping wards preoccupied with chores now perceived to be child labor abuse.
Unlike past decades when schools assisted parents by keeping children busy in school gardens, much is no longer heard or seen at educational institutions, apparently as a result of school feeding programs undertaken by the World Food Programme (WFP).
The good side, however, if adhering to the norms of child labor, is for parents to preoccupy their children by insisting that they study their lessons daily, since such would restrict them at home and avoiding the many pointless street-strolling that is fast landing them into trouble.
Wednesday, June 13 declared as International Child Labor Day and observably with not much appropriate programs visibly held in Monrovia, one wonders over how the nation will succeed thereat when the day and practices are in direct conflict with the cultural dictates which mainly citizens resident on the countryside dare suave from the course.
Perhaps with the decentralization program gradually underway, hoping to witness the practical involvement of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) into the streamlining of some activities of the population, considerable gains would be made thereat through palava hut discussions with incentives serving as inducement.
The undercurrent to the above is that whilst democracy is in no small measure helping to gradually transform the post-crisis society, all of its basic attributes cannot be attained in hasty fashion. One must remain overly cautious about traditional norms that have helped in the perpetuity of the nation by not injuring practices that the people cherish, since in fact most are not imposing but contributes to honest labor.
Biblically underscored to “train up a child in the way he should go, so that when he is old he will not depart from it,” most parents upcountry cannot momentarily afford to have their children rendered lazy by what is being referred to as child labor.
At least for now, the message is going down well with many parents who, during yester-years, penalized children by flogging for failing to attend to what became regular chores in the family. It has all turned to tongue-lashing, unless in grave situations.
At this, therefore, and in honest attempt to in arriving at a mean through which the newly-been-practiced democratic culture will indeed create breathing space for traditionally upheld values within the family or unit, child labor becomes quite relative dependant upon its effectuation and causes.