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Migration History: Zack

Zack is 15 years old. Though we met in Za-Kpota, he was born in Abeokuta, where his parents and older siblings actually live and work. He spent his first years amongst them in Nigeria, forming part of the Beninese expatriate community centred around the quarry economy. His family still work within that economy, though some of his older brothers are also taxi drivers.

When Zack was four or five, his parents decided that he should return to the family home and village in Benin, since they wanted him to attend Beninese school and thus acquire the French language that would ensure him a livelihood in Benin in the future. He therefore currently lives and attends school in his ancestral village in the Zou, living with his extended family.

When he was younger, Zack’s schooling was paid for by his parents and older brothers. Now that he is an adolescent, however, he is expected to find his own way and contribute as any social adult would. As such, he migrates back to Abeokuta every summer for three months of quarry work with his family. In doing so, he earns about 40,000 FCFA ($75), half of which covers a year’s school fees and half of which he uses for his other expenses.

Zack says that the work he does in Abeokuta is fine. He finds it more difficult than farming, but this is how he earns his money and so he has no complaints. He therefore strongly disagrees with those who say that young people like him should not be working in Nigeria. ‘What am I going to do if I don’t work there?’ he asked me. ‘That’s what pays my school fees. And if I don’t work, I’ll be sat here all year long doing nothing.’

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