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Yan’Audu: Village where minors work hard for plate of rice

At his  age, little Nasiru Alhaji has developed the habit of coming far away from Shagogo village to Yan’Audu village to partake in the hard…

At his  age, little Nasiru Alhaji has developed the habit of coming far away from Shagogo village to Yan’Audu village to partake in the hard labour of bringing out mud blocks from a burrow to the main road (Wudil-Gaya highway).

The 10-year-old Class 1 pupil of Shagogo Primary School, Gaya, told Weekly Trust that he is into the hard labour in order to get money to buy a plate of rice. He pointed out that although his parents provide him with food, he is bored with eating the traditional Hausa meal of tuwo and miyar kuka, which has become a daily dinner for him.

Nasiru further told this reporter that he was lured into the risky business by his 13-year-old elder sister, Sakina Alhaji, adding that he earns up to N20 per day. “I am being paid N1 per block, but sometimes when I am lucky, those I’m working for add some money on top of my daily earning because of my age. They sometimes add up to N20 on our actual money,” he said.

Little Nasiru, who is the youngest among the other children at the moment our correspondent visited the burrow further explained that they are into the business with the consent of their parents, saying, “They (parents) are always encouraging us to come out for this business, hence, despite the risk associated with the job, we are into it and it has been helping us greatly,” he said enthusiastically.

He added that although he was enrolled into a western school by his parents, it has not stopped him from going to Yan’Audu for this particular business. He said that children in Shagogo village sometimes abandon school for Yan’Audu village just to take part in the business.

“I was influenced into this job by my sister Sakina, because anytime I saw her with a bowl going out to buy rice, I used to ask myself why I shouldn’t join the business, so that I too can get some money to buy a plate, because we are all tired of eating just tuwo and miyar kuka, which is our constant dinner,” he said.

Nasiru elder sister, Sakina Alhaji, who is also a minor told Weekly Trust that she has been in the business for the past two years, adding that she has become conversant with the business despite its risk.

The Class 5 student of Shagogo Primary school, Gaya explained further that she is into the business to earn money for a meal. Like her brother, she said she has been spending her earnings on a plate of rice.

“I always use the money to buy a plate of rice for my dinner. Sometimes, I give the money to my parents to help them in running the affairs of the entire family. We are not the only children coming to Yan’Audu for this business, there are many other children from different families who come to the place for the same purpose on a daily basis,” noted little Sakina.

Asked whether her parents are aware of their coming to Yan’Audu for hard labour, Sakina answered in the affirmative. “Indeed, they do encourage us to come for the job. If, for instance, my younger brother and I get paid N100 or less, when we go back home, our parents usually give us some part of the money to buy whatever we like to enjoy ourselves.

“Being my favourite dish, I normally buy a plate of rice in the evening. A plate of rice costs N30 to N40 depending on what is in the plate, because sometimes, the hawkers combine rice with either beans or salad. Although it is hard labour, I already prepared my mind to go into it rather than beg my colleagues to give me a plate of rice. Since I am capable of doing the job, I think it is better for me to engage in it than to demean myself by asking someone else to give me,” she said.

Sakina and Nasiru also told Weekly Trust that they earn not less than N100 to N150 per day whenever there are ample jobs on ground at the burrow, saying that when there is not, they only generate N60 to N70 for the whole day.

However, virtually all the children interviewed by this correspondent attested to the fact that they are into the business simply to have a change of plate of food, particularly their dinner, as according to them, they are tired of eating the traditional Hausa dish of tuwo and miyar kuka every evening.

Weekly Trust observed that not only children from Shagogo village are engaged in this risky business, many children from neighbouring villages such as Jama’a, Dunburyel, Gurbo, Jama’ar Fulani, Jobe and Kafanchi also patronise the place over the same purpose.

A visit to Yan’Audu burrow by our reporter indicated that about 250 children work there on a daily basis. They do go to the den in batches and work on shift basis. While some work in the morning hours, others work during the evening hours. 

Weekly Trust observed that the children who as stated earlier work in batches come from their respective villages as early as 8 o’clock in the morning and or 4 o’clock in the evening respectively. A regular visitor to Gaya through Wudil Local Government Area attested to this as the burrow is located along Wudil-Gaya highway.

Further investigations revealed that a majority of the children have completely abandoned school for the job. Anytime there is less heat in the day, they work up till 2:30pm from morning, but whenever the sun is a little bit hotter, they work from 8am to 12pm and from 4 o’clock to 5 o’clock.

Although they claimed that are they’re enrolled in western schools, Weekly Trust observed that going by their size and the time they normally spend performing the job, one can conclude that they are not attending any school, neither the Qur’anic nor the western school.

Our correspondent also observed that the lives of the children working in the burrow are in danger because of the nature of the job. First of all, the place is gradually collapsing and if care is not taken, it may at any time collapse on them. As at the time this reporter visited the area, a portion of the burrow had collapsed. 

Mallam Ali is a local mud-block maker in Yan’Audu burrow. He told Weekly Trust that he makes up to 300 pieces of blocks per day and pays N1.00 per block to the children that are bringing them out of the burrow. Ali stated further that he is into the business simply to desist from begging, noting that he is prepared to suffer in the course of earning his living than to go to someone’s door looking for assistance. He added that, “Since I am still strong, I prefer to use my strength to earn my living than to waste my time and energy at other people’s doors asking for help.”

He told Weekly Trust that the business is profitable. According to him, 100 pieces of blocks are sold at the rate of N400 to N500 respectively. He said about 300 local block makers work in the burrow and each block maker has at least five teenagers working under his directives as labourers.

He equally noted that this is apart from the children that bring out the readymade blocks from the burrow. He said conservatively, about 1000 people are benefiting from the burrow.

Mallam Ado Dan-Dagachi is the man in charge of Yan’Audu burrow. He told our correspondent that hundreds of people including minors have been making lots of money from the block making business over years. Dan-Dagachi further stated that, “Even if you don’t have money, these children can work for you on credit. And as a leader, I always make sure that they are paid their entitlements by their employers whenever they are able to do so”.

There has never been a time when someone was denied his entitlement after completing the job he/she was assigned to do. He further said that, “No one among the children has ever complained of being cheated by his/her employer”.

Asked whether they have experienced any unfortunate incident whereby someone lost his/her life in the course of performing his/her job, Dan-Dagachi stated that they have never witnessed such throughout their stay in the place. Although there is the possibility of encountering such incidence, but they have not experienced it for now.

Also speaking to Weekly Trust, Mallam Bello Abdullahi, a father of five, debunked the children’s claim that they Are into the hard labour for a plate of rice, saying they have been provided with their basic needs by their parents.

Mallam Bello further explained that, “I don’t think there is any father in this village that cannot afford to buy a measure of rice for his family. Apart from being farmers, we also do go into the town for odd jobs just to cater for our family,” he concluded.

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