School going children between the ages of 10 and 15 shun classrooms on Wednesdays which is one of the traditional market days at Agomanya to engage in wheelbarrow pushing, otherwise described as “kaya joku3wi” activities at the Agormanya market in order to make ends meet.
Though there is nothing wrong in seeing young boys at the market struggling to make a living for themselves, the rate of their exclusion from school is alarming. They do not benefit from learning and this greatly impedes their intellectual and social development.
These boys, undeniably from disadvantaged backgrounds, are compelled to abandon their education without having acquired the basics in order to work and provide support for themselves and their family.
You therefore won’t be far from the truth if you placed youngsters caught in the murky world of child labour at the Agomanya market, a thriving market in the municipality, in this category.
Several of these children hardly miss what they see as an opportunity to make some living through sweating it out on the traditional market days of Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Hon. Simon Kweku Tetteh who is the Municipal Chief Executive for Lower Manya Krobo in an interview with Rite 90.1 FM said his outfit, the assembly, the social welfare department and the Regional Coordinating Council are working tirelessly to implement a comprehensive programme to move all under aged persons who find themselves pushing wheelbarrow on the market to remain in the classrooms.
Under aged persons, according to the Children’s Act, Act 560 (1), is a person below the age of eighteen years.
The MCE however asserts that data and information available to the assembly reveals that some of the children involved in these activities are minors who need protection in all forms to avoid damaging the future of these children.
“We are aware of the fact that most wheelbarrow (load) pushers are below the stipulated age of persons who should be doing such work. They are the future and we need to protect them,” he told Community Watch host, Omanba Kodwo Boafo.
The former Assemblyman for Nuaso Old Town Electoral Area noted that the Social Welfare Unit of the Assembly has consistently participated in training workshop on how to roll out programmes to remove the ‘unfortunate children’ from continuing with their life threatening activity.
He assured that the Assembly will involve Rite FM in the implementation of the programme immediately they complete the capacity building phase.
Community Watch recently visited the market on one of such market days to interview some children on why they absented themselves from school and resorted to the pushing of wheelbarrows (load).
One of them confided in Rite FM that he decided to work in the market after being sacked from school “over non-payment of school fees and examination fees.”
Another teenager, Kofi (not real name) explained that he is forced to work on the market since he is the ‘breadwinner’ of his family.
“I live with my grandmother whose needs I provide including her feeding,” he told Rite FM’s Omanba Boafo.
Yet another told this reporter that he was compelled to push the trucks as a way out to help his parents who are traders.
The Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) are by legal backing mandated to protect the welfare and promote the rights of children within their areas of authority.
This is evident in section 16(1) of the Children’s Act which states that, “a District Assembly shall protect the welfare and promote the rights of children within its area of authority and shall ensure that within the district, governmental agencies liaise with each other in matters concerning children.”
The Government of Ghana in 2005 implemented a non-fee payment basic education but compulsory system to give access and quality of education to all school going children who are in the basic school range.
Article 38(2) states ‘the government shall, within two years after parliament first meets after the coming into force of this constitution, draw up a programme for implementation within the next ten years, for the provision of free, compulsory and universal basic education.’
Twelve years after the implementation of the FCUBE progromme, it is still ‘crippling’ to meet the reasons for which it has been established.
Successive governments since the implementation of the FCUBE programme continue to make efforts to keep the policy alive.
In 2008, the erstwhile former President Kufour left a capitation grant of Ghc 3.00 per pupil. Whilst the National Democratic Congress (NDC) led administration maintain the grant at Ghc 4.50 per pupil within the last eight years, the present government under the leadership of President Akufo Addo has made a ‘significant increase’ to Ghc 9.00 per pupil.
Despite these efforts of the government, pupils continue to be charged for sports, culture, security (watchman fee), printing, and teacher motivation fees.
A Ghana Statistical Service 2015 survey revealed about 1.9 million children in Ghana between the ages of five and seventeen are involved in child labour. 1.2 million Children out of that number in the same age group are engaged in dangerous forms of child labour.
The GSS, which conducted the Ghana Living Standards Survey Round Six (GLSS6) in October 2013, also indicated that the number of children who do not go to school but participate in economic activities was higher than those in school.
The 2013 survey also indicated that children who participated in economic activities while attending school constituted 26.3 per cent while their non-schooling counterparts constituted 41.6 per cent. The survey revealed that male children in child labour were slightly higher than females while the number in the rural areas is higher than those in the urban areas.
According to the survey, children in the rural savannah areas who participated in economic activities was higher as compared to those in the rural forest and rural coastal areas. As young as they are, some youngsters are forced to work in the market to supplement what their families earn.
The proportion of children who participated in economic activities among the 15-17 years bracket was 42.9 per cent while those in the five and seven year group was 9.9 per cent.
Most surveys have attributed the causes of child labour to poverty and low incomes. These surveys indicated that until parents were able to support themselves financially, children would continue to be used to help complement household incomes.
The Upper West Region has the highest percentage of children, that is 92.4 per cent engaged in agricultural activities while the Upper East Region recorded the highest proportion of working children who were repeatedly beaten at work. Working children who engaged in child labour and other forms of hazardous work were often exposed to various forms of abuses at the workplaces.
In conclusion, everybody has a stake and a role to play in child development. What Ghana’s children need now is education, not labour. Child labour is a national menace and which we can’t run away from. The more we play the ostrich and close our eyes to the problem, the worse it grows – we have no option!
Source: Omanba Kodwo Booafo/ritefmonline.org