Meet Makurdi teenagers who make a living scavenging for scrap metal
Most of them are young people who have dropped out of school due to lack of money. They move in groups of no fewer than four, using a rope attached to a plate-like magnet, pulling behind them as they go from one street to another, particularly in the Wurukum slums of Makurdi metropolis in Benue state. Regardless of the health implications, the boys toil under the harsh sun in order to reach their daily goal. The money earned is usually spent on groceries for the family or paid for part of the school fees. Daily Trust Saturday examines a day in her life.
for Audi Ajonye, 15, who combs the streets of Wurukum, a Makurdi suburb, daily in search of magnetic items, which he sells for meager income, is currently a stopgap after dropping out of secondary school.
Ajonye also sees the stressful scavenging for discarded iron items as the only way to earn some money to support herself and other family members.
The teenager told our correspondent that he would like to go back to school, but the money he earns every day is not enough for food or savings to make that possible.
“If it (items) fills a bag they pay N400. We can fill it out and get paid in one day. When I grow up I would like to be a painter because that is where my talent lies. And I want to go back to school,” he said.
Similarly, Monday Bala, 14, a student at North Bank Secondary School Makurdi, demonstrated how to collect the pieces of iron from the streets using a specially handcrafted magnet.
Bala said, “If you hold the rope while dragging the iron across the ground, it will magnetize every piece of microiron element it encounters.”
The boy added that after collecting the items sufficiently, he will sell them to a dealer to make ends meet.
He has now been in business for about three years and has progressed into the point of sale (POS) business.
Bala said he can earn at least N5,000 in a week and this helps him to manage his money needs for his education and he is also learning computers with the others.
“I do the business because it’s better than stealing. I never want my name mentioned among cultists or armed robbers,” he stated.
Our correspondent, who spotted the duo alongside several others on Awe Street in Wurukum, reports that they are mostly teenagers who dropped out of school due to lack of funds.
They move in groups of no fewer than four with a rope attached to a plate-like magnet that follows them as they go from one street to another, particularly in the Wurukum slums of the Makurdi metropolis in Benue state.
Regardless of the health implications, the boys toil under the harsh sun to reach their daily goal.
The money earned is usually spent on groceries for the family or used for part of the school fees – for those who are in school.
They were over 10 teenagers in about three groups when our correspondent met them on Awe Street around noon.
Among them was Friday Charles, 17, an SS2 student from UBE Capital College, Makurdi. He said the hunt for the pieces of iron was a means of raising money to fund his education.
Charles said that running long distances in the sun every day during the holidays and after school (during session) was not an easy task.
“But I have to do it. I need to raise money, not steal, to meet my cash needs,” Charles explained.
The same goes for Ayesu Philemon, 12, who soon plans to go to secondary school with his savings from mining for iron.
Interestingly, a good-humored business owner has decided to polish the youngsters’ talents by adding value to them by training them to operate the computer and the POS machine.
The business owner, Audu Ogwu, told our correspondent that he was moved with passion after observing the teenagers’ devotion to what they do to earn a living because most of their parents are too poor to take them with them to provide for basic human needs.
Ogwu, who returned to Makurdi after his compulsory youth ministry last year, set up the business to support himself while he waited for a clerk job.
“I am the owner of this POS and computer training center. I am also a rancher. I studied urban and regional planning at university. The guys come to my shop every day, especially when they are tired after collecting iron objects on the street.
“And when I saw the potential in them, I decided to use them in computer and POS training. I will keep some of them and advise their parents on what to do so they can have their personal system.
“The metal collecting they engage in is to help themselves. They do this outside of school activities. They have been with me for a few months and will stay with me for at least six months by agreement with their parents. I don’t charge them any fee. It’s free. Six of them are currently under my supervision. Good ones,” Ogwu explained.
Meanwhile, spokesmen for the state Children’s Parliament, which opened in Makurdi a few days ago, have stressed the need for children in the teenage category to be adequately cared for and given the necessary educational attention.
Ms. Oluseyi Abejide, field manager of Save the Children International, said in her speech during the program that one of the organization’s interests is to ensure the protection of children.
It is recalled that the Children’s Rights Act was introduced in Benue State in 2008 to ensure and protect the rights of the child in the state and for related purposes.
The law provides that any child who completes upper secondary education and cannot afford upper secondary education is eligible to learn a trade.