REGULATING THE TERMS OF APPRENTICESHIPS IN THE COUNTRY
For any country to be great, the citizens of that country must be industrious! Hence, there should be adequate and implementable laws to guide the conducts of the citizenry. In the olden days, when a child grows up in any family, it is either the young man is sent to school or he is given out to any family relation or friend to either acquire skills or learn how to trade. The duration of such adventure normally lasts between 2 to 4 years depending on the agreed terms of engagement. Under this term, the child will leave his parents and move to the city where he will stay with his master. This practice has produced many great industrialists, technicians and renowned traders in the country.
However, like other sectors which has been mercilessly abused, this particular process of training a child to be self reliant outside the four walls of higher institution has transmogrified to something else. Today, we have masters and servants who have abused the process. We have servants who after serving their masters between 7 to 11 years, instead of been settled by their masters to start life a fresh, the so-called masters will accuse the servant of committing one offence or the other which they will rely on to deny the servant a befitting settlement worthy of his sacrifice and potentials. The story is the same every where such practice exists in Nigeria.
The tragedy of this practice today is that, some heartless individuals will move from the various cities down to the remote areas where access to better life is a pipe dream, to meet parents who have no idea of how to bequeath good life to their children and start telling them fictional stories about life in the city and how they plan to transform the life of these children if only such child would be released to them. The unsuspecting parents who have lost touch with realities will gladly release the young child to them. The innocent child will stay with them for about 4 years without any document stipulating how long the child will stay before he is settled. In this age of information super high way, the child is denied access to communication so that his parents or family will not reach him to know how their child is faring. The master of the child will keep telling the child's parents that all is well, whereas as is not well.
When the child insist on reaching his people as a result of advancement in age, and the master discovers that, the child's parents are no longer happy with the deceptive promises they were lured in to by these heartless masters, they will then look for one unjustifiable or unfounded allegations to level against the boy-servant. Hence, they will drive the child out of their houses empty handed. The whole years the child spent serving his master becomes a waste, because there is no valid document to tender in the court where he could seek justice.
According to Carlin Georgescu, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights: “Justice is distorted when the victim pays for the conduct of the accused”. Therefore, the rejected servant becomes hopeless, and worse still, age would no longer be on his side to start life from the scratch. In an effort survive and look like his peers, such child begins to nurse negative thoughts and imaginations. It was Friedrich Nietzsche who said: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger”. As a result of the frustration encountered from his master, such person becomes hardened and some of them who cannot see light at the end of the tunnel, resorts to what we say in journalism: “If it bleeds, it leeds”.
Nonetheless, these classes of neglected Nigerians are co-citizens whose rights are protected by the constitution. Should we continue to turn blind eyes and paying sealed lips to the plights of the downtrodden in our society? According to Martin Niemoller, a German anti-Nazi activist, he said: “First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communists. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionists. Then, they came for me and they was no one left to speak out for me”.
Last Christmas, many Nigerians were afraid of travelling from their places of residence to their various communities because of one anti-social behavior or the other! As a young man who grew up in different cultures and religious environments in Nigeria, there is one truth synonymous with every religious and moral teaching in the country: “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them”. This is because; we cannot sow evil through our thoughts, words and actions and expect a miracle!
Finally, a law should be made detailing procedures and rules guiding apprenticeships in the country. The law establishing the National Agency for the Prevention of Traffic in Persons NAPTIP should be amended to include these set of Nigerians who has been dying in silence in its oversight functions. Also, budgetary provisions for NAPTIP should be increased. The Federal Government should create a special scheme for these classes of Nigerians where they could easily raise funds to start their own businesses or workshops. This is the only way we can build a better society for all.
Comrade Edwin Ekene is the National President of Young Nigerians for Change.
No. 29, Ben Mbamalu Crescent, Achara Layout, Enugu State.