The reality of Ghanaian child and the Children’s Act 1998, Act 560
A 10-years-old primary four (
4) pupil in Tamale Andaratu (not her
really name) who is living with her biological parents combines her education
and parents pity-trade.
Andaratu who is the fourth child of the six children like many of her colleague’s children in Northern Ghana and other parts of the country has no option but to help their parents in any form trade.
Her ambition is to become a professional teacher in future but that won’t be easy if she doesn’t hustle before at that age.
On daily basis, she carries 30 pieces of sachet water plus some assorted drinks totally GHC 100 around the central business district of Tamale and offices within the area before 5pm.
She struggled with the load in climbing high rise buildings just to serve her customers.
This also exposes her to danger as some men may lured her and sexually abuse her.
She is expected by her biological mother to bring 21 Ghana cedis after her 3 trips sales each day. In each trip, she makes between 6 to 7 Ghana cedis.
According to her, her mother promised her of extra classes if she gets to class 2.
She told this reporter that
her unemployed father, Mr Baba gives her GHC 1.50p and her mother top her
up with 1GHC making it GHC 2.50 pesewas a day as school money.
According to her, her mother adds 1GHC on condition that she sales the water at least 3 trips immediately she closed from school at 3pm each day.
These 3 trips she explained, has to be completed before she eats, that’s if there is launch in the house for her.
‘It is not easy for me but I have no option. Sometimes I get very tire and had to take a rest at a point before I can continue’, she lamented.
When asked if has told her mother about her predicaments, Andaratu initial answer was hmmm! ‘I can’t tell her because it won’t be easy for me’.
Ghana well-crafted child protection laws in the 1992 constitution but not in practice to protect children such as Anratu.
The outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic made Andaratu’s unwilling job preeminent even though her wish was to be attending extra classes like her fortunate colleagues.
Children and youth centered nongovernmental organization, Curious Minds agreed with many Ghanaians that the country does not need new laws for her children protection.
Mr Daniel Selassie Agbenoto, Programs Lead of Curious Minds in Ghana told this reporter that Ghana as a country has enough policies and laws to protect children but the failure to implement them was still the problem.
‘I think we have so many laws and no need of thinking for new laws for children’ Mr Daniel said.
He also believe the media have a very big responsibility when it comes to promoting children rights.
Mr Selasie said sometimes the reportage on children issues rather exposes the children to stigma, danger, hate and teasing from their colleagues.
He pleaded with the media to be careful not to infringe on the very children rights they want to be protected.
The children’s Act 1998 Act 560 Section 12 of states that No person shall subject a child to exploitative labour as provided under section 87.
But a parent Mr Alhassan Seidu argued that one’s the child engagement will not endanger her life and it will inure to the benefit of the family, is it OK. However, the law disagrees with Mr Alhassan position.
Section 16. (1) of the law said ‘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’ .
Acting in accordance with the Children’s Act, the Tamale Metropolitan Assembly in May 2017 arrested Twenty-three (23) children believed to be living on the streets of Tamale.
The arrest was made by the Assembly’s constituted Bihisung (Good Behavior) Task force.
The children aged between 4 and 15 were arrested after 10 p.m at different locations within the metropolis and sent to a conformable place.
It’s decision to pick up the children off the streets followed series of warnings to parents that it would soon fine parents who allow their children to roam the streets of Tamale during odd hours.
Pressure mounted on the determined Tamale mayor Mr Iddrisu Musah and his team to release those children arrested.
No parent appeared before the task force or the law enforcement agencies to answer questions on why their children were loitering aimlessly in the streets of Tamale.
Months after, city authorities went back to sleep and the teenagers are back on the streets.
Ghana’s child and Family welfare policy
Ghana in November 2014 came out with a very fine child and family welfare policy document. The Policy recognizes a child as a person below the age of 18.
In line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 1992 Fourth Republic Constitution of Ghana (article 28) and the Children’s Act 1998, (Act 560) (section 1). This policy
also takes into account how a child is defined in the Ghanaian context in relation to
the family and concept of childhood. Thus, a child is one who is still largely dependent on an adult for the necessaries of life.
Andaratu by all term and purposes largely depend on her parents but she has to contribute to the economic well-being of the family before her needs are met.
The state machinery including the district assemblies must crack the whip because the irresponsible parenting is putting so much pressure on resources that could have been used to either provide infrastructure or social amenities.
Again, there is too much misconception and interpretations of the Holy Books, the Quran and the Bible.
For some Muslims parents, their reason for marring and given birth to many children is that it is Allah who provides for the families. These believes have been discounted by Islamic scholars with verses of the Holy Book but some still believe having many children is Allah’s will.
It is clear that the entrench positions taken by certain people in the Ghanaian society, especially in the Northern Ghana needs stringent measures to enforce the law.
The consequences of irresponsible parenting is now glaring at every one with teenage pregnancy resulting to child marriage on the increase.
Policy makers and stakeholders must begin to think of regional stakeholder conference on the protection of children rights. When this happens and the law begins to work no irresponsible parent will have excuse.
Having many children used to be a prestige in most traditional homes in northern region, especially among the royals but the reality has dawn on us because parents’ incomes are not mensurating with the families.
Religious and traditional leaders wields so much power and if attention is given to their views and contribution to the wellbeing of Ghanaian children’s rights then their future is bilked.