The Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, is advocating that children work in factories, industries and other manufacturing enterprises every day to support the country’s production of essential products, allowing for skills acquisition to complement their academics in the classroom.
She said this on Thursday at the Anambra Investment Summit.
“I am pleading for us to look into more production of some of these things in our society, especially the necessities like the matchbox, toothpicks, cotton buds, sanitary pads and other items. Let us introduce urban development in schools,” said Ms Kennedy-Ohanenye.
The Nigerian minister suggested Nigeria copy the example of China.
“And if we can think about using Fridays as free days so that our children can start producing things just as they do in China. In China, even young kids get involved in production,” Ms Kennedy-Ohanenye explained.
According to the U.S. Department of Labour, there are reports that children between eight and 17 are forced to produce bricks in China, with concentrations in the Shanxi and Henan provinces, with some children abducted or trafficked through coercion and sold to work in brick kilns.
She added, “I was able to speak with the traders union association, and they are ready to partner with this while when they produce these things, they market it within our country. We will not only create jobs and stop the issue of giving handouts to our Nigerians when they are supposed to be eating fats.”
The minister explained that engaging schoolchildren in such labour would reduce substance abuse and addiction.
“They would be more occupied with school and equally do some production which would help them in earning money. This would equally curtail the issue of insecurity in our society. If we were hoping for the government to do it all, it would never happen,” Ms Kennedy-Ohanenye stressed.
Her suggestion was greeted with mixed reactions on social media, with many Nigerians accusing her of promoting child labour as the country battles the menace of out-of-school children.
“The Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, is at the Anambra Investment Summit, advocating for the reduction of school days & the use of school children as workers to manufacture essentials such as toothpicks, sanitary pads & cotton buds!” said a netizen, @I_Am_Ilemona, on X.
The X user added, “The solution to drug abuse is child labour? The solution to insecurity is child labour & reduced school hours? In 2023, when children across the world are being taught digital skills a Minister is advocating that our children should be sent to labour camps? Damn!”