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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Irreplaceable

She isn’t one of those who wake up lazily, she isn’t of the wealthy class who take their time with everything, gesticulating as they try to find words which actually are at their finger tips. Neither does she wake with a start like one chased by the devils in her dreams, not that she didn’t have devils, nor that they didn’t chase her- just not in her dreams. She wakes in three installments: half awake-awake-floods of thoughts- always in that order.

She looks around her wondering where the devils would come from this day. They always pretend like they would stay away, taking a momentary leave to bother someone else, until she steps out of bed. She lingers, wondering what would happen if she doesn’t get out of bed. How she hates morning shifts, even if by special arrangement she gets to resume by 8 a.m.

‘Would the devils leave me alone?’

She heard herself speak and the voice sounded strange- hoarse? squeaky? The devils had launched an attack-and she was still in bed.

She rises delicately, like she would hurt the sheets if she gets up too fast or too soon. Her feet to the cold floor, wiggle her toes-a ritual from her childhood days. She sighs as she remembers a small house full of fun and laughter, a thatched roof and mud walls-a house in the village. The lights come on and she looks at it offensively, ‘the power company remembers’. What was that song about NEPA remembering when everyone else forgets? But who needs electricity when you have the moon? She finally wills herself up and heads to the bathroom-time to fight the first devil.

She walks into the bathroom. She avoids looking at the white tiled walls. She hated the colour. She should have changed the tiles and repainted the walls. They remind her too much of… She kills the thought like one swatting off an offensive fly. Not that devil…too early for that devil.

She faces the mirror and opens her mouth wide until she can see her velum. She searches, peering lower into her oesophagus-another ritual. She started this ritual in primary three, when her crush on Chineme was driving her crazy, a part of her knew back then that she was going to be nurse. If she wasn’t a nurse, she wouldn’t have met… ‘No, no, no, no no’, she realised she was talking to herself again, the same squeaky hoarse voice. She must be coming down with a cold. She may have to call in sick. Maureen would have a fit. She smiles as she thinks of Maureen having a fit: four letter words filling the air; drawers opening and closing in a crazy frenzy; attempts not to throw things. She should have left this job. That was the plan until…

There is a loud bang at the door. She automatically pulls her robe together. The bang comes again. As if put into gear, she propels herself, out of the bathroom, through the bedroom into the living room- the time was 7.02am. The bang comes again just as she reaches the door, she pulls it open.

Her hands fly to her mouth stifling a scream at the sight.

‘Please, help me’

She resists the urge to shot the door and run away screaming.

‘Dor, please’

He was the only one that called her Dor. Every one else called her Doris. The name was short enough but he had made it shorter, more ‘personalised’. Each time he called her that, she felt like someone was licking chocolate off the small of her back and made her want to grab a bedpost . The revelations hadn’t changed that, and now not even seeing him bleeding from the head – the blood running down his pretty face, threatening to seep into his eyes- could change that, she still wanted to grab a bed post.

Her thoughts switch back to the bleeding subject. This looked like a knife wound-whoever did this had aimed to hurt him really bad but had somehow not plunged deep enough. He sways and she is brought back to now.

‘We need to get you to the hospital’

‘No…no hospitals…just let me in, you can help me’

‘Who did this?’

‘Not now Dor, please’

The questions could wait. She needed the act. Everything inside her told her to take him in and nurture him. This was more of a flesh wound: clean and stitch. He would be grateful and maybe… She allowed her mind to stray to a time not too long ago, a time when they spent all her free time and off days together. When his touch sent her heart racing, willing him to go further…They were so good together, until his wife showed up.

He groans, bringing her back to the present.

‘Help me’

She opens the door and helps him in, shutting the door with a back flip of a leg. She leads him to the sofa and suspends his head with a throw pillow as she enters nurse mode.

‘I’ll have to clean and disinfect the wound. It looks like it might need stitching’.

He nods as she hurries away to get the first aid box. She knew she was going to regret letting him into her life again, but she didn’t care. There was no reason why she should take him away. The only advantage his wife had was a sheet of paper, it could be made worthless if she played her cards right. She would help Chris and show him love that his wife could never equal. This was a war and she was prepared to do anything to win. She and Chris were meant to be together, he was irreplaceable…

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2011 in Short Story

 

Working Children…

As if on the clock, she shows up every morning at the same time, 8.30 am- a time when school has resumed and the first period is almost over. She comes to peddle her ware, pap-commonly known in western Nigeria as ‘ogi’. The entire tray is worth less than five hundred Naira. Out of curiosity, I ask her one day if she doesn’t go to school. She shyly responds that she does. I look at the time and I wonder when.

June 12th every year is marked World Day Against Child Labour. Child labour as defined by international laws is work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous to children and deprives them of opportunities for schooling and development. According to the United Nations International Children Education Fund (UNICEF) there are an estimated 158 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 who are engaged in child labour. In Nigeria, there is an estimated 15 million working children under the age of 14 (International Labour Organisation estimate)

Most of these children can be found along the streets and highways, sometimes zapping through traffic in a bid to sell something as little a five Naira worth of pure water. This, to a large extent explains why these children are on the streets and not in school. High level of poverty, parental illiteracy, rapid urbanization, and breakdown of the extended family system has been cited as reasons for this high statistic.

The effects are tragic. A child without an education suffers mentally and emotionally. He is caught and entangled in an unending web of poverty. Without proper education, the child ends up taking up unskilled badly paid jobs. This often breeds a new generation of poor children who may end up child labourers themselves.

Also imagine what 15 million uneducated youths could do for money. Is it little wonder then that Nigeria has witnessed a rapid growth in violence and kidnapping in recent times?
It becomes apparent therefore that we need to bring an end to child labour. To start with, the Child Right Act (2003) should be ratified and adopted by all states in Nigeria. This will provide a legal framework upon which to determine the rights of the child. Yet, government legislation is of no use if they can not be enforced. States that have ratified the CRA, should do more to enforce these laws. Children who are of school age should be kept off the streets. These children have homes and more should be done in terms of social work to help them. A situation whereby fines are imposed on the parents does not solve the problem because the children are on the streets because of poverty to start with. Parents should be educated into understanding that the only way to break the circle of poverty is by allowing their children get an education. Keeping them out of school now in order to make money will only further compound the problem.

Support groups should be formed in the Local Government Councils. Their responsibility would be to reach out to the women in their councils to encourage them to send their wards to school. The traditional role of children in the family should be restored. Children are meant to help their parents and not provide for them.

Eradication of Child labour is a collective responsibility. Everybody should be involved. We know who these people are who abuse children in this way. It is your responsibility to speak out against it. The time is now!

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2011 in General