I always become worried when I see and hear about negative things done to children in media reportage. I wish African countries could introduce some sort of urgency and impetus in efforts to halt the rate at which children are either trafficked or engaged in force labour. For the little I have seen children go through, I don’t think it’s prudent to watch on unconcerned or not being proactive in response to child labour on the continent and especially in my country Ghana.
Just recently, some friends and I were in Otinidin, a quarrying community in Accra-the Capital city of Ghana, and at a firsthand, we got to know how some children had to suffer just to sustain their families. Quashie, a 13year old boy who does quarrying to support his grandmother met his untimely death when he drowned in a mining pit during one of his normal expeditions.
The situation wasn’t quite different in Gemeni, a fishing community in the Volta Region of Ghana. Holy, a 17year old fisher folk explained how some children were allegedly killed and used as baits to get more fishes from the Volta Lake. Holy was happy that his parents were dead. According to him, they would have renewed his contract with his master to work under difficult conditions whilst the parents collected the wages. Most of these children are often not given proper health care when they fall sick through the work they do or abuse meted out to them. Education seems to be a mirage since priorities of their guardians are to see their own children through school at the expense of these vulnerable children.
Achieving the Key targets of goal 1(Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger), goal 2(Universal Basic Education), and goal 6(combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases) of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 will be good news for Ghana. But these cannot be successful without taking proper look at the challenges affecting children. I understand the Human Trafficking Act 694 and the Children’s Act 560 of Ghana, for instance, have been enacted to address issues of this nature as and when they arise. It is commendable, but what lies beyond the enactment of our laws?
Persons who are found guilty in playing any role in child trafficking should really be dealt with in accordance with the law to serve as a deterrent to others. Our leaders, especially the states and countries of those that children are trafficked and used for forced labour should have the political will to speak against such activities. They should also look at ways we can empower families economically to be able to look after their children well. I look forward to a time where our leaders would use occasions like World Day Against Child Labour to account for significant achievements in tackling children’s problems and not the usual cliché of what they intend to do.
Right to play is best enjoyed during childhood and not hard work. Memories of the state of children at Otinidin and Gemeni are still fresh on my mind. Aside writing this article, I’m left to wonder what the future holds for them if nothing is done about child labour. It is worth to note that” A stitch in time saves nine”