- 1. One study estimated that that up to 18% of all children in West Africa live without their biological parents (Mensch et al. in Mann 2001: 24).
- 2. At times, of course, the best way for children to do this is by attending school, by getting good grades and by virtue of their education potentially accessing better paid employment as they grow older.
School, therefore, is thus often viewed in this setting as a kind of ‘children’s work,’ as part of their economic responsibility to their collective.
- 3. Crucially, in this context, ‘to take care of oneself’ is translated in French as ‘se prendre en charge,’ which has at once the simple meaning of ‘looking after oneself’ and, more subtly, of carrying one’s own burden, since ‘une charge’ can be used to refer to a weight, responsibility or other load that one must carry.
- 4. My discussion with Trevor echoed this clearly. Trevor had been institutionally designated as a ‘former trafficker’ because he had been a central facilitator for many years in the migrant labour network linking Za-Kpota to Abeokuta. Having placed dozens of adolescent boys in various gravel pits, he explained that it was often a boy’s parents who would approach him to arrange the boy’s labour migration, since they wanted to avoid the boy dangerously wasting his time unproductively at home when he could instead be learning how to ‘look after himself.’
- 5. This case is so classic that it is even featured on the Za-Kpota Wikipedia entry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Za-Kpota. Last accessed 12/02/16.
- 6. http://www.oijj.org/en/news/general-news/benins-child- slaves-working-nigerias-quarries. Last accessed 12/02/16.
- 7. This methodological description has already appeared in Howard (2014).
- 8. Although my research on and in Abeokuta was comprehensive and the data gathered were rich, it should be noted that my sample was not random. As such, I cannot be certain that my findings are representative of larger patterns. Additionally, some young migrants may be inclined to depict their migration in more positive than honest terms. This is arguably also true of the employers and labour network organisers who rely on their work. However, given the wide scope of my ethnographic research and the fact that I was able to collect data from multiple vantage points (youths, parents, employers, etc.), I believe that my subjects’ accounts have a high degree of validity.
- 9. Much of this section reproduces work from Howard (2014).
- 10. Significantly, I found that, for many young males, money-focused labour mobility was a way of facilitating continued schooling. In other words, many migrated (especially during the summer holidays) solely in order to put together the money necessary to enable them to continue their schooling. This contrasts sharply with what is commonly suggested by the discourse promulgated by the ideologists of Western Childhood, who frequently construct an opposition between school and work and pathologise non-Western communities for failing to see that school should be ‘children’s work.’ This finding has been echoed elsewhere (see, for example, Young Lives 2009).
- 11. As indeed it does across the region (De Lange 2007; Hashim and Thorsen 2011).