The continued existence and development of any society depends on the ability of the children and youths of that society to function effectively, socially, economically and religiously as members of the society. As a result of this, the study on the effect of street hawking on the academic, behavioral and socio-economic development of a child is worth pursuing. The study was guided by eighteen (18) research questions. The sampled population consists of 200 respondents of both parents and students in Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State. The data used for the study was gotten from the questionnaire composed by the researchers and the data were analyzed using simple percentage. The major findings of this study shows that poverty is the major cause of street hawking and that children hawking on the street develop maladjusted patterns of behavior, which in turn impair their academic, moral and social-emotional development thus affecting their future negatively. Based on these findings, it was recommended that government should provide free basic education, improve worker’s remuneration, provide academic grants and aids to economically disadvantaged parents, and create jobs for unemployed parents, in order to keep children from hawking under the guise of subsisting family income at the expense of their total development.
Historically, hawking appears to be part of Nigerian culture and understandably so. Nigeria being among the poorest economies in the world—with the accompanying effects of unemployment, poor infrastructural facilities, and lack of human empowerment—has seen most of her populace living in abject poverty. Therefore, because of the low socio-economic status of most families in Nigeria and the high rate of poverty, most parents cannot help but push their wards into the streets where they spend long hours, at the mercy of environmental elements, selling – pure water (sachet water), fruits, confectioneries – so that the proceeds may contribute to family upkeep. This situation is alarming because street hawking is a form of child labour and abuse which is on the increase in Nigeria. Street hawking is considered a form of child abuse because it endangers the health (physical, spiritual, psychological, and social) and safety of the child; interferes with his/her education, and deprives him/her the right to normal and happy childhood.
The value of children as unique gifts from God has a worldwide acceptance. In Africa, including Nigeria, children are the main yardstick with which a man’s wealth and success are measured. Furthermore, children ensure not only continuity of the society but also give parents their rightful position in the society (Olaitan & Akpan, 2003). This gift of children is so treasured that people go to extremes to look for it. Any marriage without children is most often bereft of happiness and in some cases; such marriages do not last or are usually unstable in nature (Ugwu, 2007).
There is no uniform definition of a child in Nigeria. Nigeria Labour Act, NLA (2003) defines a child as a person under the age of 18 years. International Labour Organization, ILO (1999) defined a child as individual below 15years of age. In spite of the variations, in this context, children are seen as any human beings below the age of 18years and not yet an adult. A child at birth is helpless and totally dependent on the adults for all its needs, which from conception, but personal uniqueness and individuality with strong and loud demands for attention care, and security. Early childhood (0-6years) has come to be recognized as a period of critical development of the human being. During this period love, care, good nutrition, a safe environment, stimulation, and encouragement are particularly critical for the individual’s future life (Dixon-fyle, 2002). Regrettably, in Nigeria, many children in the process of their development seem to experience exposure to street hawking (Bosah et al 2015).
Street hawking is defined by Umar (2009) in its simplest form is the selling of things along the roads and from one place to the other. Aiyeluro (1979) defines street hawking as the process whereby the hawker hawks his goods by carrying the goods on his or her head by means of a tray, or minor forms of transportation like wheel barrows, bicycles, trolleys etc. in search of customers in the process of which he could employ the use of bells or shout the name of the item he or she is hawking in order to attract the attention of any interested customer.
Anyanwu (1992) sees street hawking as a trading activity that involves movement across house or street with certain articles usually food or household commodity advertised by the seller through shouting the name of the item, ringing of bell or the like. Street hawking is considered as the act of canvassing for sale, items carried by the hawker along the street, from house to house or in the public places in town (Ikechebelu 2008).
Therefore, street hawking is a system of trade that involves the movement of the trader from place to another in search of customers to purchase his or her wares, which could be household or perishable commodity, through the means of shouting or using a bell.
Vinolia and Fubara (1988) described street hawking as an aspect of child abuse and neglect. They argued that certain economic and socio-psychological factors induce street hawking which they added have damaging effects on the developmental processes of children.
The culture of hawking did not come from the blues; it has a historical offshoot. In seeking to situate the development of street hawking in Nigeria, a historical review of how street hawking came to stay in Nigeria becomes imperative.As it concerns the emergence of child hawking in Nigeria, Olori (2009) is of the opinion that street trading, especially by children, appears to have started with the introduction of an International Monetary Fund Structural Adjustment Plan (IMFSA) in the late 1980s, which led to the devaluation of the currency, a withdrawal of subsidies on items such as fuel, water, and electricity, and job cuts. Resulting from the above, parents who could no longer afford fees for their children or wards withdraw them from school. In an effort to help families make ends meet, some of these children were engaged as domestic servants to wealthy households, as car washers and watchers, bus conductors, and street hawkers. At this point, it is very clear that the issue of child hawking is not as old as man, rather it started at a point in the history of human existence. Therefore, it is still believed that the principles of anything that has a beginning must have an end will one day be fulfilled in the issue of child hawking in Nigeria, if the right policy steps are taken (Olori, 2009).
Street hawking among the primary school age children are fast becoming the culture in our society. When children are kept busy on the street and they come in contact with different corrupt behaviors during hawking, it becomes worrisome what the outcome will be on their academic, behavioral and socio-emotional development. This if not properly addressed will seriously affect the general standard of morality and social norms that has formed the acceptable pattern of behavior among the youths.
This study therefore sought to examine the causes of street hawking, analyze the effects and prefer possible solutions to the problems of street hawking, in Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State.