1.1    Background to the Study

Education remains a potent and dynamic instrument for national development and social transformation and also a tool in measuring development index globally. It is in recognition of this importance that governments all over the world have made commitments for its citizens to have access to education. Since it remains the only tool through which any nation can grow and develop technically and overcome poverty and other factors associated with under-development.

Learning is an important activity which humans engage in. For children to perform in class, they must learn otherwise teaching will be an effort in futility. It is in this light, that Zimmerman and Schunk (2001) revealed by using the three types of learning; behaviourist, cognitive and social learning theories to explain how children are taught and how learning is expected to take place. They conclude that abused children therefore do not learn effectively hence they often record poor academic performance in school.

Academic performance as a fundamental objective of educational system has become a source of concern to researchers, especially as the academic performance of the students is declining. Academic performance is defined or regarded as participants’ examination grades at the end of a given duration (term, semester, programme). It could also be seen as the level of performance in a particular field of study (Egbule, 2004:34). Similarly, Ricarda (2014) posited that academic performance represents achievement outcome that indicates the extent to which a student has accomplished specific goals that were the focus of activities in instructional environments, specifically in school, college and university.

Children that have been victimized by one or more form(s) of physical abuse exhibit some behaviours different from other children in school with attendant effects on their academic performance. Shonk and Cicchetti (2001) revealed that physical abuse generally delays students’ progress academically, because there is always lack of trust in people because they have been disappointed and abused by those that ought to be source of joy, trust, defense and security to them, they believe nowhere is safe and nobody is to be trusted. This leads to changes in behaviour such as emotional pain, physical pain, withdrawal from opposite sex, poor social relationship, anxiety, mental stress, depression, difficulty in socializing, sadness, hooliganism, thuggery, rebellious, malnourishment, anger, scars on body parts, addictions, sexual difficulties, unhealthy appearance and clothing. These traits lead to poor academic performance by the child as concentration becomes a problem.

Street hawking is a form of selling goods along the road from one place to the other. It also extends to activities that includes but not restricted to canvassing for patronage of goods and sale of items carried by a hawker along the street, from house to house or in the public space (Ikechukwu Joe, 2008).

The phenomenon of children street hawking or vending in developing cities and towns is attracting a rising interest amongst researchers (Olutunde, 2013; Ugochukwu, Okeke, Onubogu and Edokwe 2012), due to the various health, social, and economic implications for the children who engage in such activities. Developing cities and towns are faced with exponential growth giving rise to rural-urban drift in search of a better means of livelihood (Hoyamo and Keenan, 2007). This in addition, encroaches on the limited resources available in these cities.

Street hawking irrespective of who (age and sex) engages in it, is associated with many hazards. This includes sexual assault which increases the vulnerability of the hawkers to diseases such as HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, increased risk of unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortion, physical assaults, mobbing, involvement in road highway accidents, kidnapping and ritual killings (Lee, 2004; Lu, 2011). Street hawking leads to increased exposure to antisocial activities like smoking, drug and alcohol abuse, cultism and crime. When children are involved, in addition to above listed risks, they are deprived of education, bad habits evolved and are denied of good sound health and these constitute child abuse (Ugochukwu et al., 2012; Amoo, Ola-David, Ogunrinola and Fadayomi, 2012; Ekpenyong and Nkereuwuem, 2011).

The emergence of child hawking in Nigeria appears to have started with the introduction of an International Monetary Fund Structural Adjustment Plan (IMFSA) in the late 1980s, which led to the devaluation of the currency, a withdrawal of subsidies on items such as fuel, water, and electricity, and job cuts (Olori, 2009). As a result of this many parents who could no longer afford school fees for their children withdraw them from the education system. In an effort to help families make ends meet, some of these children were engaged as car washers and bus conductors, and street hawkers.

Children they say are the future of any nation, therefore there is the need to take appropriate care of children. Recently, children all over the world are receiving special focus on the improvement of their welfare by UNICEF. The federal and state governments have created ministry of women affairs to make policies that will improve the welfare of children. In spite of all these efforts, most families are increasingly not showing any encouraging attitude in the area of proper up-bringing of children. As many children are seen physically abused and hawking in major streets, highways, markets, lanes, buses and from houses to houses in major cities and towns in Nigeria in order to contribute financially to their own up-keep and that of their families.

In Makurdi Local Government of Benue State, children are gradually taking over mobile street trading, hawking in commercial buses, and at long traffic hold-ups. Reasons observed by different scholars for the upsurge in this drift are that parents’ economic status cannot sustain the children in school, that the parents spend their paltry earnings on food and transport. So, the parents resort to sending their children to sell and beg without any consideration of the possible effect of such activities on their children’s academic performance as students(Shailong, Onuk and Beshil, 2011).

Physical abuse in Makurdi Local Government of Benue State has become a major health issue among children. This phenomenon is not only having immediate affects but also has a long term consequences and it costs extreme burden on any society for prevention, treatment, develop policies and programs (Norman, Byambaa,  Butchart and  Scott , 2012). According to the WHO (2006) physical abuse is defined as “the intentional use of physical force against a child that results in – or has a high likelihood of resulting in – harm for the child’s health, survival, development or dignity. This includes hitting, beating, kicking, shaking, biting, strangling, scalding, burning, poisoning and suffocating”. Therefore this study seeks to find out the influence of street hawking and physical abuse on academic performance of secondary school students in Makurdi Local Government Area (LGA) of Benue State.

1.2    Statement of the Problem

No doubt one of the fundamental end objectives of the secondary school education system in Benue State is to produce high academic excellence among students. Thus, the ministry of education, schools, principals, teachers, counsellors, parents and even students in Makurdi Local Government Area (LGA) of Benue State all lay credence to the need to attain great academic success.

Observations however, showed that high academic achievement has become a herculean task to accomplish by secondary school students in Makurdi. Poor academic performance have become a norm as they are reported yearly both at the junior and senior secondary school WASSCE levels.

This problem is not limited to secondary school education system nor to Makurdi Local Government Area of Benue State alone, as the academic performance of students at all levels in educational institutions in Nigeria has attracted much criticisms from all and sundry from time immemorial. The decline in the academic performance of students in Nigerian Universities had been observed by Soyinka (1999), when he submitted that the University system in Nigeria needed restructuring. He went further to say that academic standard had fallen drastically and the quality of graduates being produced by the nation’s universities is questionable and subject to re-examination. Hence, poor academic performance of students has been of great concern to educationists, guidance and counsellors.

Despite, calls and policies mounted in schools to improve students’ academic performances, the problem of poor academic achievement among secondary school students in Makurdi remains lingering.

Consequent upon the observed under academic achievement, and the clarion objectives of senior secondary school education, one wonders if the high rate of failure, poor academic performance by students in Makurdi Local Government Area of Benue State is not a reflection of the prevalence of street hawking and physical abuse suffered by many students in the area. It is against this backdrop that this study seeks to find out the influence of street hawking and physical abuse on academic performance of secondary school students in Makurdi Local Government Area (LGA) of Benue State.

1.3    Aims and Objectives of the Study

The general aim of this study is to examine the influence of street hawking and physical abuse on academic performance of secondary school students in Makurdi. The specific objectives are:

  • To investigate the influence of street hawking on students’ academic performance in Makurdi.
  • To explore the influence of physical abuse on students’ educational outcomes in Makurdi.
  • To assess the joint influence of street hawking and physical abuse on academic performance of secondary school students in Makurdi LGA of Benue State.

1.4    Research Questions

This will be guided by the following research questions:

  • What is the influence of street hawking on students’ academic performance in Makurdi?
  • To what extent does physical abuse influence students’ educational outcomes in Makurdi?
  • What are the joint influences of street hawking and physical abuse on academic performance of secondary school students in Makurdi LGA of Benue State?