CHILD PROTECTION
ISOKEN TRAVAILS
Sept. 1, 2015
BY SALAMATU MUHAMMED
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Nathan was twelve (12) and I was just sixteen (16) when both of our aunts "shipped" us to the eastern part of Nigeria to work for a friend of hers who owned a soap factory. One would wonder how much they got for my brother and I, am sure you also want to know? I found out that my aunt collected twenty thousand naira for Nathan and I to go work for this woman.


At first, one of my aunt's (Aunt Tina) told me there was a better school that was much more affordable since they couldn’t afford to pay for I and my brother to school here.

Alas! We were being sold off at such a young age without consideration as to what might happen to us over there, I could sense something wasn’t right about this new supposed school even if I did say something at that point my opinions couldn’t have mattered and I would have gotten a slap from aunt Itohan for talking. She never liked me or my brother and would never miss an opportunity to curse at us and tell us how unfortunate we were. On the other hand, aunt Tina was soft-spoken, nice and caring she loved us and I liked her a great deal but since she was the youngest amongst my aunts she didn’t have much say as to what happened to us or not.

Three-days after we were informed of this relocating trip, here we were in Enugu in a soap factory when we arrived we were shown a small room where we would sleep at night and we got to work immediately without resting from the long trip, later that night I got to understand we would be sharing that room with fourteen (14) other children within the same age range as us (Both the girls and boys slept in this small room). Apparently this factory owner indulged in under-age labor since it was much cheaper and we were made to handle machines that actually weighed more than we did and that would have cost her much money if she employed older people because they knew their rights. While we worked for this woman, the welfare was very low, the menstruating girls had no privacy and sometimes they used tissue or pieces of rags during their periods. We would wake up as early as 4: AM and sleep by 11: PM or most times 12: AM getting little or no sleep some days. Poorly cooked food were served to us, it began to take a toll on the younger ones like my brother Nathan since they did most of the work they had to source for palm kernels which was an essential ingredients in the kind of soaps being manufactured at the factory, sometimes they had to walk a 10 Kilometers to and fro journey just to buy palm kernels from farmers, I would cry each time I saw him coming back from those trips looking all malnourished, tired and sick.

We worked like that for four years until an NGO discovered the factory used under-age labor and made the state government intervene that led to the factory shutting down; the NGO helped some of the children return to their respective homes while they took some of us (I & my brother inclusive) to an orphanage. I wrote my first senior secondary certificate examinations at age twenty-two (22) after attending classes at the orphanage that helped us prepare for the examination and were registered into a school to sit for the exams. Nathan is attending a vocational school he has always wanted to be an auto-mechanics and I know he would do better in future when he studies Engineering in a University.

While I wait for my SSCE results I have learnt to sew and I save my proceeds to support my tuition when I finally get an admission to study Law in the university.

I still think of those horrible years when we worked like we were slaves and sometimes I get scared and wonder what would have become of us if the NGO never discovered us. The orphanage treats us like we lived with our own parents and I really like it here I don’t get sad anymore when I think of my late parents because I know the future is bright.

 


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