Research Key

child labour and academic performance of teenagers in molyko-buea

Project Details

Sociology and Anthropology
Project ID
International: $20
No of pages
Analytical tool
Descriptive statistics
 MS Word & PDF

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The essence of the project was to investigate child labour and academic performance amongst teenagers in Molyko- Buea.

The objectives of the study were as follows, to begin with, the main objective, the project intended to examine the effects of child labour on academic performance of teenagers in Molyko, the specific objectives included’ to investigate on the relationship between child labour and academic performance of teenagers in Molyko, to examine the causes of child labour and finally suggest solutions to curb child labour in Molyko.

The study was guided by the Theory of Exploitative Child Labor and Expectancy Valency Theory. The research adopted a descriptive survey design The study targeted 50 primary school pupils, systematic sampling technique was used to select a sample size of 50 primary schools Based on the findings, 42% of the children live with their relatives as opposed to 36% of them who live with their parents.

Findings also reveal that hawking was the predominant activity done by those teenagers found with child labour thus representing a percentage of 40% with 38% being domestic work. As a solution to curb child labour, the disintegration of African societies which use to help in guidance and counselling of children should be shifted to teachers to help them implement anti-child labour laws.



1.1 Background to the study

According to Pinzo and Hofferth, (2008) child labour is a far-reaching and complex problem in developing countries. It has existed in various forms (force labour, trafficking and street trading) in different parts of the world since ancient time. The types of child labour vary according to the country’s culture, and family culture, rural or urban residency, socio-economic condition and existing level of development among other factors.

A survey by Global March (2008) state that child labour emerged as an issue during the industrial revolution when children were forced to work in dangerous conditions for well up to 12 hours in a day. In 1860, 50% of children in England between the ages of 5 and 15 were said to be working. However, 1919 saw the world systematically begin to address the issue of child labour and the international labour organization (ILO) adopted standards to eliminate it.

Throughout the 20th century, a number of legally binding agreements and international conventions were adopted but despite all this, child labour continues to this day. The highest number of child labourers are said to be in the Asia Pacific region, but the largest percentage of children, as a proportion of the child population, is evidently found in sub-Saharan Africa with Cameroon (south-west region-Buea) having a fair share. 

 The word child labour is any form of physical, psychological, social, emotional and sexual maltreatment of a child whereby the survival, safety, self-esteem, growth and development of the child are endangered.

Herrenkohl,(2005) and Psachropoulo, (2007) view child labour as disinvestment of social and human capital, a compromising of the development of the individual, and a hindering of the development of skills, abilities, and knowledge necessary to make a significant contribution to society.

Convention on the rights of the child (CRC), (2002) described child labour as paid and unpaid work that occurs in any sector, including domestic, and agricultural sectors, that are harmful to children’s mental, physical, social or moral development of the child in the modern society; any work that deprives children opportunity to attend school, obliges them to leave school permanently or requires them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work is categorized as child labour.

 Article I of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as anyone below the age of 18. Child labour does not only exist in the impoverished areas of developing countries but also flourish in other developed nations. Though, it is a complex problem in developing countries.        

 Child labour remains a major source of concern in Cameroon in general and Buea in particular, in spite of the legislative measure taken by the government at various levels. In 1998, a report from the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that 24.6% of children between the ages 10-14 in Cameroon were working (World Development Indicator 2000).

Earlier before that time in 1994, the United Nations children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) reported that approximately 24 per cent (4 million) of all children under the age of 15 worked (UNICEF, 2005).

It is a ridiculous sight in most big cities, as well as rural villages today to see children of school age, trading food on the street, herding animals, tanning and drying raw leather product, fetching water for commercial purpose, washing dishes at restaurants, serving as domestic hands, selling wares at kiosks, collecting firewood for business, harvesting crops in a family farm or commercial plantation amongst other activities

(Thomberry 2013), agreement with the labour abuse (child labour) trend, the International Labour Organization (2002) in it other report issued, states that the global figure of child labourers was put at appropriately 250 million. The report adds that the ages of the children range between 4-14 years with 120 million of them working full time.       

According to Robinson (2009), the phenomenon of child labour is arguably the tallest challenges that impact directly on school enrolment, attendance, academic performance, completion rates as well as health rest, leisure and the general psychological disposition of children.

As stated earlier, child labour takes various forms such as street trading, gardening, child caring, handicrafts, house chores, prostitution and trafficking etc., there all have an implication on the learners level of commitment.     

Obinaju, (2005) tried specifically to look at child work in a more detailed way, in the perspective of culture. To the author, child labour covers tasks and activities that are undertaken by children to assist their parents or guardians.

In particular, such jobs as cooking, washing dishes, planting, harvesting crops, fetching water and firewood, herding cattle, and babysitting. In this case, child labour simply aims at tasks and activities which are geared towards the socialization process, if education must be wholesome.      

 However, the International Labour Organization (ILO), in its condemnation, said, child labour is as stipulated hereunder: children prematurely leading adult lives, normally working long hours for low wages under conditions damaging to their health and to their physical and mental development, sometimes separated from their families, frequently deprived of meaningful educational training opportunities that could open for them a better future.

International Labour Organization (2001), in a study entitled” focusing on the worst forms of child labour in Tanzanian says child labour refers to work carried out to the detriment and endangerment of the child, mentally, physically, socially and morally. Child labour is generally interpreted as “all cases in which children are exposed to harm at work whether or not children are less than 14 years old or less” (UNICEF, 2005). The meanings and implications of child labour have been highly dependent on its social, cultural and economic context as well as the missions, strategies, and objectives of each organization.

Two of the major international organizations traditionally working on behalf of child labour issues, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and United Nations Education and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) had utilized quite different child labour concepts and categorization until at least the early 1990s. Trade unions and ILO often used “child labour” and child labourer” instead of “working children” implying that children should be kept away from the labour force at least until they reach a minimum working age on the basis of the fact that these organizations historically tended to protect and secure adult labour market.    

   Scanlon, (2002) conversely, referred to “child labour” according to articles 32 of the conventions on the rights of the child, in which child labour includes any economic activities impeding or hindering the child’s full development or education. UNICEF described child labour as work that violates children’s human rights (Post, 2001). The international labour organization categorized child labour as follows.

  • Agricultural labourers.
  • Domestic labourers.
  • Street labourers and
  • Factory labourers’ with wages.

 Golden and Prather (2009) claim that “child labour” is exploitative, as the latter potentially impairs the health and development of the children. By contrast, James and James (2008) although agencies such as ILO, and UNICEF working on child labour issues originally had different concepts on child labour, following the establishment of the worst form of labour convention 182 in 1999 as well as inter-agency research cooperation such as understanding children’s work in 2000, a growing consensus has emerged that child labour refers to unacceptable forms of child work.         

 According to UNICEF (2005), the current official definitions of child labour involves as follows:        

  1. Child work or children’s work is a general term covering the entire spectrum of work and related tasks performed by children.
  2. Child labour refers to the subset of children’s work that is injurious to children and that should be targeted for elimination.
  3. Hazardous work refers to physical, psychological or sexual abuse.
  4. (unconditional) the worst form of child labour includes “children of any age below 18 who are involved in forms of slavery and force labour, including forced recruitment for use in armed conflicts, commercial sexual exploitation (prostitution or pornography), illicit activities (particularly the production or trafficking of drugs) and hazardous work that jeopardizes their lives, health or moral”.

 On the other hand, the international labour organization’s official defines child labour in the following categories.          

  1. In ages 5-11 = all children at work in economic activity.
  2. In ages 12-14 = all children at work in economic activity minus those in light work.
  3. In ages 15-17 = all children in hazardous work and other worst forms of child labour International Labour Education and International Programme for the Elimination of Child Abuse (ILO, IPEC, 2002).

The South Asian Coalition on child servitude, (SACCS, 2003) in its perspectives defined “labour as a set up where an employee (labour) sells his or her labour to an employer with certain work-related conditions, such as wages, amenities bargaining power, rights and legal safeguards.

It implies that not all work performed by children can be termed child labour. In some studies like Aderinto, (2000) children laborers are regarded as “street children” or “children of the street” who run away from parental or guardian abused, leaving them to eke out a living on other.

This name “street children paralyzed them from thinking ahead, thus rendering them educationally useless and hopeless. Teichman, (2000). States that most times they go through physical and health consequences such as respiratory problems, injuries accidents, physical and sexual abuse such as rape and molestation malnourishment, extortion of income, police harassment, and participation in harmful delinquent activities all inimical to educational successes.  In other studies, by (Charles and Charles, 2004) child labourers face robbery, inadequate sleep due to fatigue and long hour job, and confinement in juvenile homes. 

Most times they suffer from mental related sickness such as; stigmatization from the press and public, feelings of disheartenment, stress and irritability, personality disorders, and anti-social behaviour, and alienation and isolation from their family and these have a significant negative effect upon the level of education, school attendance, academic performance, grade, literacy, leisure time, and overall human capital formation of the child worker.     

 The general notion held by many is that child labour, is detrimental to learners academic capability, however, some opinions differ regarding “when and how” a particular work is to be truly regarded as harmful to the future of a child or even interferes with his wellbeing. There is an argument of relativism in this discourse.

A possible interpretation in this regard is to look at it in terms of opportunity cost” (gains and foregone alternatives). From this purview, a particular work would be harmful if it entails an opportunity cost in terms of other activities that are beneficial for the child and his development with reference to safety, nutrition, study, morality, leisure, rest (Okafor, 2010).

This school of thought believes and sees child labour as an inevitable process of growth, development and integration of the child as stated in the social theory above. Nevertheless, the adverse consequences of child labour differ by whether they are oriented toward market or home production, as well as whether they are inside or outside the home. Therefore, the question should be child time allocation to work activities by where they occur (inside or outside the household) by whether or not they are related to a family enterprise.        

  For Rosati and Rossi (2003), attending school and working is a decision that is usually considered simultaneously as a family conversely, these authors also posit that the number of hours the child devote to work is one of the fundamental variables for evaluating the child wellbeing. Added researches in developing countries have found that the majority of child and youth labourers regularly attend school. However, in certain cases, a negative relationship between the number of hours worked and the hours of school attendance has been found (Boozer and Suri, 2001).         

Buonomo (2011) found that children who work below the medium predicted by the proposed statistical model (up to two hours daily) demonstrated better school results (measured years in school, age-grade ratio, completion of elementary education, completion of at least one-year secondary education) than those children who only attend school. This finding indicates that while there is clear evidence of the negative impact of labour on the minor education, a minimal devotion to labour does not seem to have a significant effect on the education of children and youth.

However, attendance is an indication that does not sufficiently explain the impact of child labour, as it does not take into account the quality of the child’s experience in school. Main while, majority cases, child labour makes the adequate child and youth inclusion in the educational system difficult. (Grootaert and Kanbur, 2005). Dyer (2007) observes that, given that the time for work takes away from the time allocated to studies and that the attention to academic activities is reduced, due to the fatigue produced by the labour.

One of the major adverse trends in child labour is the proliferation of young conductors in the transport industry.Horsch, (2002) state that most victims work in a public place such as street, markets which do not give them time to go to school and perform excellently this is mostly affected by students in secondary school. All in all, child labour seems to have a clear negative effect on academic performance.

Ekwa M (2001) estimate on child labour in Cameroonian general and south-west region, in particular, indicate that 20 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 14 involved in street trading on cheap articles, edible and products such as sachet water, plantain chips, bread, biscuit, roasted corn, fruits, vegetable, boiled corn. Boiled eggs, wears and bananas in the streets and along the road especially at damaged portions of the roads where motorist and other road users are constrained to slow down due to bad condition of such roads.

Bonded labour which is also known as debt bondage is another form of child labour suffered by most youths at the current generation (Sebre, 2004). Child labour exists in the form of house help or domestic servants. In this case, privilege people from the cities easily convince poor rural parents to hand in their children to them with various promises of better life and education. However, these children are sooner than later turned into house helps who cook food, wash clothes, care for babies, fetch water and attend to all sorts of household chores etc.

“Children in domestic service in Cameroon can be in several forms. Firstly, it may include children from other families, parents or another society employed by certain people who are believed to be wealthy and some time of modest income. Abused children get up very early in the morning and begin his or her work by fetching water from a nearby well, balancing the heavy jug on his or her head as he or she returns, Prepares breakfast, and serve members of the household. In addition, he/she later does the remaining jobs in the evenings and late in the night (Moses, 2005).

In other instances, some of the children are taken to shop and business centres/workshops, to serve for a number of years (usually between 5-7 years) with the promise to assist them to establish their personal business outfit at the end of their service period. In many cases, such children are exploited as they are merely used and dump on the basis of one accusation or the other. This has led to the frustration of many youths who lack adequate machinery to seek any form of redress or social safety nets to fall back on. (Nanchi and Uba 2003).         

Sabate and Rayah(2011), in their assertion, comment as thus: child labour impacts negatively on the achievement or performance of basic education because it leads to high drop rates as it was easy for children to be easily deceived by meager income that trickle in, into believing that leaving school to give more time and attention to their work is a better option as they will get rich faster than their peers who have to spend many years in school.

This can also lead to low academic achievement/poor performance on account of which the child would be expected to repeat a grade, this can cause fear, low self-esteem/shame both on the parts of the child and parents and make them develop certain apathy for schooling and in such cases, and drop out could be a possible consequence.

In some situations, such children are considered poor and unfit for academic pursuits and the tendency is usually to pull them out of school for a certain trade or apprenticeship thereby perpetuating further abuses since many poor parents may not be willing to give them a second chance. There is trade-off by most parents between the time children spend in labour and that spent attending school and doing some school-related assignment (homework). Majority of child labourers either do not attend a school or skip school to the various degree (Ekwe 2002).

 Obviously, the greater the time children allocated to work and economic activities, the increasable difficult it becomes to attend school since one cannot eat his/her cake and still have it.

According to ILO 2006, report, 74.4 million children aged 5-14 year who skipped school and engage in employment were victims of physical and mental hazard, most common are road and industrial accidents, abduction and ritual murder etc. many of them have been hit by cars, motorcycle (Okada), bicycle etc leading to deaths, disabilities and various magnitude of injuries. There is also a psychological dimension to the health-related issues of child labour. These include; low self-esteem, stigmatization, personality crises since they often see and hear things beyond their maturity.

Thus posit a huge challenge that negatively affects their cognition and retention abilities. Generally, working children are known perceived themselves as less privilege and less fortunate than their non-working counterparts. An ILO survey across 26 countries found that at least one in every four economically active children suffered sickness and injury as a result of their work, while about 2.7 million healthy year of life is lost due to child labour, each year with the highest rate in the sectors where children are employed, (ILO, 2006). Such hazardous incident could eventually jeopardize the capability of being sound academically.       

   Despite the various views on the effect of child labour and the contradictory opinions by some authorities, in all, time spent in school is a poor measure of learning in school. Above, it was separately indicated that child labour and time in school may be inversely related, even if child labour does not harm learning.  It is possible that child labour harms learning even if it does not alter time in school. For example, it is possible that child labour does not alter school enrolment, or even that it does not alter school attendance because child leisure is lowered to make time for child work.

However, child labour could still adversely affect school outcome by limiting time spent on homework, or it could leave the child too tired to make efficient use of the time in school. Numerous studies of learning tell us that it is cognitive achievement or the highest grade attained that matter for learning’s not time spent in school.


Over the years about 60% of children in Cameroon go through child labour (Rodgers G 1981). This phenomenon is a contentious issue in Buea, especially in Molyko. This is because it has far-reaching consequences to the child, the family and society. Governments and non-governmental organizations had made efforts to stop the incidence of child labour in the society, but these efforts have not yielded much result as many children are seeing in streets carrying out one activity or another most of which are street hawking of food items like boiled corn, boiled groundnut, yaourt, fish role, ‘akra banana’ and fruits.

Others can be spotted selling in defined locations and eateries most of which at times become so tired and find it difficult to concentrate in class the following. This study, therefore, examined the impact of child labour on the academic performance of children in Molyko as well propose some solutions which will help redress the issue of child labour and improve children’s performance in school.


1.3.1 Main question.

What are the effects of child labour on the academic performance of students in Molyko?

1.3.2 Specific questions

  • What is the relationship between child labour and the academic performance of teenagers in Molyko?
  • What are some of the causes of child labour among teenagers in Molyko?
  • What are some of the solutions which can help to redress the problem of child labour in Molyko which will help to improve their academic performance?


1.4.1 Main objective

The main objective of this study is to examine the effects of child labour on the academic performance of children in Molyko.

1.4.2 Specific objectives.

The specific objectives of this study include:

  • To investigate the relationship between child labour and academic performance of teenagers in Molyko.
  • To examine the causes of child labour in Molyko.
  • To suggest a possible solution to child labour in Molyko locality.


  • It is very evident that there is a significant relationship between child labour and academic performance among teenagers in Molyko locality. Some of the causes of child labour are related to economic factors as well as social and cultural factors
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