Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My friend Tolu

My friend Tolu is a 14 yr old girl who hawks plantain most evening on weekdays and weekends. She comes to my compound (which has two block of flats) regularly and I buy plantain from her. Some of the neighbours also buy from her. She is in JSS II. She sometimes hawks with her sister Tayo. Tayo sells tomatoes & pepper. She is in SS1 (commercial class). They sometimes interchange the wares so that Tolu sells tomatoes while Tayo sells the plantain.

Tolu is friendly and has developed the business sense and communication skills required to deal with more matured (and older) customers. She tries to persuade (persuasion skills) to buy even when I don’t want to. I patronize her often so she always come to check if i need some fresh plantain (marketing skills). I have not told her yet that I used to hawk yam tubers for my mum when I was about her age too. I remember the “joy” of selling off all the tubers that I had on my tray and coming home to deliver the money to my mum. She used to be very happy and would thank me for helping her sometimes explaining the necessity. I used to go in the company of my brother or sister too.

While child hawking might be prohibited by law, the poverty in many homes will not deter parents from sending their wards to hawk in order to supplement family earnings and pay for school fees. It is the task of a responsible government to reduce poverty through schemes which encourage honest livelihoods (farming, trading, SMEs (Small & Medium scale Enterprises) in general) and provide free education to children to at least secondary level and subsidize higher education fees. Provision of good infrastructures (road networks, rails, water, and electricity) will help SMEs develop and grow and make living standards among the people better. I suppose this is what government is really about in the first instance. I believe the middle class (which I belong now) has a duty to those below to help empower, enlighten and support them whenever and however possible. I am very much involved in this light within my local community as I understand that there is a big connection between what we experience in the larger society and what we do in our homes and the local communities we belong.

I keep encouraging Tolu to focus on her studies and keep helping her mum. I also warn her to be careful of many male preys out there who rape and abuse young girls by pretending to patronize them. This was not so prevalent in my much younger days. Our next line of discussion will focus on career – what she hopes to study in the higher institution and get her to dream wild and free while giving her the tips necessary to achieve success. I hope her dreams come true..... mine are sure becoming real every day.