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Meet Makurdi teens who earn living scouting for metal scraps

They are mostly teenagers dropped out from school due to lack of funds. They move in groups of not less than four with a rope…

They are mostly teenagers dropped out from school due to lack of funds. They move in groups of not less than four with a rope tied to a plate-like magnet tailing behind them as they walk from one street to another, especially around the Wurukum slums of Makurdi metropolis in Benue State.  Not minding the health implications, the boys toil under the harshness of the sun so they could meet their target for the day. The money earned is usually spent on food for their family or pay part of their fees – for those in school. Daily Trust Saturday examines a day in their lives.

 

For Audi Ajonye, 15, combing the streets of Wurukum, a suburb of Makurdi, on daily basis in search of some magnetic elements which he sells in return for meagre income is presently a stop-gap measure after dropping out of junior secondary school. 

Ajonye also sees the stressful scavenge for discarded iron elements as the only way to make some money for the upkeep of himself and other family members.

The teenager told our correspondent that he wants to go back to school but the money he makes everyday isn’t enough for food or savings to enable him do so.

“If it (elements) fills a bag, they will pay N400. We can fill it in a day and get paid. I want to be a paint artist in future because that’s where my talent lies. And I want to go back to school,” he said.

Similarly, Monday Bala, 14, a student of North Bank Secondary School Makurdi demonstrated how the pieces of iron are gathered from the streets using a magnet specially handcrafted for the purpose.

Bala said, “When you hold the rope while dragging the iron on the ground, it will be magneting every piece of micro iron elements it comes across.”

The young boy added that after gathering the elements sufficiently, he will then sell them to a dealer to make ends meet. 

 

He had been in the business for about three years now and has advanced into doing Point of Sale (POS) business. 

Bala said he could make at least N5,000 in a week and that helps him sort out his money needs to pursue his education and he also learns computer with the rest. 

“I’m doing the business because it is better than stealing. I don’t ever want my name to be mentioned among cultists or armed robbers,” he posited.

Our correspondent who spotted the duo among several others at Awe Street in Wurukum, reports that they are mostly teenagers who dropped out from school due to lack of funds.

They move in groups of not less than four with a rope tied to a plate-like magnet tailing them as they walk from one street to another, especially around the Wurukum slums of Makurdi metropolis in Benue State.

Not minding the health implications, the boys toil under the harsh sun so they could meet their target for the day.

The money earned is usually spent on food for their families or used to pay part of their fees – for those in school.

They were over 10 teenagers in about three groups when our correspondent encountered them on Awe Street at about mid-day.

Also among them was Friday Charles, 17, a SS2 student of UBE Capital College, Makurdi. He said hunting for the pieces of iron was a means of raising money to fund his education.

Charles said walking long distances in the sun every day during the holidays and after school hours (when in session) has not been an easy task.

“But I have to do it. I have to raise money not steal so as to fund my money needs,” Charles explained.

It’s the same story for Ayesu Philemon, 12, who intends to go to secondary school soon with his savings from scavenging for iron.

Interestingly, a good spirited business owner has decided to polish the talents of the youngsters by adding value to them through training them on how to operate the computer and POS machine.

The business owner, Audu Ogwu, narrated to our correspondent that he was moved with passion after observing the teenagers’ dedication to what they do to earn a living because most of their parents are too poor to provide them with basic human needs.

Ogwu, who got back to Makurdi after his mandatory youth service last year, set up the business place to fend for himself while waiting for a white-collar job. 

“I’m the owner of this POS and Computer training centre. I’m also a livestock farmer. I studied Urban and Regional Planning in the higher institution. The boys come around my shop daily, especially when tired after picking iron objects from around the streets.

“And when I saw the potential in them, I decided to place them on computer and PoS training. I will retain some of them and advice their parents on what to do so they can have their personal system. 

“The metal scavenging they are into is to assist themselves. They do it outside school activities. They have been with me for some months and they will be with me for at least six months following an agreement with their parents. I don’t charge them any fee. It’s free. There are six of them under my watch presently. Good ones,” Ogwu explained.

Meanwhile, speakers at the State’s Children parliament inaugurated few days ago in Makurdi, have stressed the need for children in the category of these teenagers to be adequately catered for and given the needed educational attention.

Field Manager, Save the Children International, Mrs. Oluseyi Abejide, in her speech during the programme said the organization is, among other things, interested in ensuring the protection of children.

It would be recalled that the Child Rights act was domesticated in Benue State in 2008 to provide and protect the rights of the child in the State and for the purposes connected therewith.

The law stipulates that any child who finishes his junior secondary school and could not afford senior secondary education is entitled to learn a trade.

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