By Tosin Lanre-Kolade
In the bustling streets of Osogbo, the vibrant heartbeat of Osun, a unique tale unfolds each day.
Amid the bustling routine of civil servants and ambitious entrepreneurs, a trio of young boys, aged between 11 and 14, captivates passers-by with spontaneous singing performances.
Recently, the boys, fuelled by passion and circumstance, created an open-air concert outside a popular restaurant in the city.
Their lyrics weave through the air, leaving onlookers enchanted and reaching for their smartphones to capture the daily spectacle.
Meet 11-year-old Waheed Adekunle, a charismatic member of this musical trio. As I inquired about their journey, he shared a story that spanned two years of dedication and resilience.
Adekunle’s father, a person with disability, sits by the side, watching the children do their thing.
“We do this every day; we’re friends. I am in primary six, I attend Salvation Army Middle School in Alekuwodo,” Waheed explained with a sparkle in his eyes.
Their street performances, a harmonious blend of singing and dancing, serve a dual purpose – artistic expression and financial sustenance.
Waheed illuminated the economic connection to their passion, revealing that they made between N2,000 and N3,000 on a daily basis.
“Singing brings us joy, and some people even ‘dash’ us money. We’re making ends meet while pursuing our dreams,” he told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
When asked about his musical inspirations, Waheed pointed to icons like Portable and Naira Marley, expressing his desire for fame.
Another member of the group, 13-year old Olaleke Ahmed, said they visit other popular places to show their craft, saying they want to support their parents with the little things earning.
In these spontaneous performances, young talents like Ahmed and Adekunle find a stage to showcase their aspirations and make give joy to their audience.
In the heart of Nigeria, a harsh reality unfolds beneath the shadows of economic struggle as more young people, inspired by the success stories of others seek to use their various talents to improve families’ financial fortunes.
In the bustling streets and hidden corners, young children find themselves caught in the web of poverty, compelled to enter the workforce at an age when their dreams should be taking flight.
Nigeria, a country with diverse landscapes and cultures, bears witness to a narrative that often goes unnoticed –pervasive issue of child labour.
There is an intricate connection between poverty and the exploitation of the innocence of these young souls.
As the sun beats down on the crowded streets, one can’t help but notice the silent struggle etched on the faces of children who should be playing, learning, and dreaming.
Instead, they navigate the path of economic hardship, their small hands engaged in work meant for more experienced fingers.
Take a walk through the impoverished neighbourhoods, and you’ll encounter heart breaking scenes where children, as young as eight or nine, labour in various capacities to contribute to their families’ income.
The dream of education becomes a distant mirage as survival takes precedence.
Andrew Aina, is a 10 year-old boy with dreams as vast as the Nigerian sky. However, his reality paints a different picture.
“I sell things like sachet water and drinks at Owode market in Osogbo after school hours to help my family.
“We struggle to make ends meet and I want to contribute,” he said sharing, a glimpse into the daily sacrifice that poverty exerts on these young shoulders.
The removal of petrol subsidy by President Bola Tinubu has not helped matters.
The removal of the fuel subsidy was supposed to boost the economy, after a brief period of pain, but for the urban poor who live balanced on thin margins, it is having a deep effect.
To cushion the effect of this policy, the government has promised to increase the supply of grain and fertiliser, raise award a special allowances to civil servants, and supply palliatives to the poorest households.
But none of these have so far made a significant difference to the quality of life of most Nigerians, who are increasingly looking to God and their neighbours for support.
Dr Sarah Aguocha, a child psychologist, said the nexus between poverty and child labour is complex.
According to her, families trapped in the cycle of deprivation often see no alternative but to send their children into the workforce.
“Education, which holds the promise of a brighter future, becomes an unattainable luxury.
“In this intricate dance between destitution and survival, the dreams of these children are pawned for the immediate relief of economic burden”, she said.
Aguocha said the twin challenge of absence of proper legislation; and enforcement of existing ones exacerbate the issue, allowing the exploitation of youthful vigour at the cost of their innocence.
She said it was crucial for the society to acknowledge this silent crisis and work collectively towards breaking the chains that bind these young spirits.
The psychologist said that through awareness, advocacy, and targeted interventions, there could be a Nigeria where every child is afforded the opportunity to learn, grow, and chase their dreams.