In recent times, I have observed with keen interest the time at which some pupils in my neighbourhood return from school. These pupils usually leave home as early as 6:00am and return home at 18:00GMT. As they hastily leave for school, they will tell you the kind of punishment that awaits a person for not attending extra classes. This situation leaves them with virtually no time for house chores and even much time to review their school notes.
Perhaps, you might have also observed a similar situation in your neighbourhood. Pupils of upper and even lower primary schools are made to attend extra classes. Some of those who close before 17:00pm sometimes have special teachers at home. I feel in some circumstances, some of these arrangements deprive children of a sufficient leisure time- a component crucial for a child’s development.
Extra classes were evident in many basic schools I visited; especially those being managed by private individuals. From my interaction with some pupils, I understand school formally closes at 15:30GMT after which extra classes follow and ends at 17:00GMT. “Super-Extra-Classes”, as some of the pupils described it continues from 17:00GM to 18:00GMT. That notwithstanding, some of them attend classes on Saturdays and even during vacation.
Reasons given for this kind of arrangement in some schools seem really interesting. Some teachers argue that time and duration for teaching is not sufficient to fully cover the syllabus within a term. According to some teachers, extra classes offer the platform for students to be better prepared for terminal and external examinations like the Basic Education Certificate Examination. Fees from extra classes, they explain, supplement their seemingly insufficient salary. From what I gathered, some teachers would deliberately reserve certain crucial topics only to be taught during extra classes. This is used as a measure to compel students to attend the extra classes. The unfortunate part is that, those who can’t afford to attend therefore miss out on those topics and are even punished for that.
Extra classes, I believe are necessary. Children deserve to have the best start in life. As such, giving them special attention in their education is crucial. My worry, however, is the growing trend of commercializing and exploiting the education system. In doing this, children from modest background, whose parents cannot afford an additional school fees are deprived of full benefits from school work. This I must say runs contrary to what legal frame works on children’s welfare really states. Articles 28 and 29 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, for instance, stipulates that children have the right to quality but affordable education and the need for them to benefit from school work.
Governments' Departments of Education and the Association of Private schools must step up their supervisory role to ensure that schools under their Jurisdiction do not take undue advantage of children under the pretext that such students deserve special attention. I have known teachers who identified poorly performing students in class and were willing to help them without even charging them any fee. Even if fees would be charged for extra classes, it should be within the reach of low income parents. I want to see children graduate with distinctions but certainly not at the expense of learning basic life skills.
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”
Food and water are inevitably integral part of our lives. A healthy living requires a constant access to clean water and balanced food. They are necessities which people could go any extent to have. One other important part of our lives which largely as Africans, we haven’t really given much attention to is the disposal of our human excreta; something we can’t do without. A tour around communities would reveal a rather poor state of scarce toilet facilities.
Limited availability of places of convenience has, for years now, made some people resort to inappropriate places like the beaches, bushes and garters. For members of my community, a suburb of Accra (Ghana), open defecation, either at the beach or the bush becomes a suitable option. Elderly persons and children go to those places to avoid joining long queues and seeing filthy things before one leaves for work or school. Children, who manage to get to public toilets without money, are often sacked. Even when they manage to get to the facility and join queues, some adults usually overtake them claiming their reputation and dignity will be at stake should it happen that they soil themselves.
My interaction with some pupils in four public basic schools in some parts of Accra revealed that, students are required to carry gallons of water along to school before allowed to use school toilet facilities. Other schools do not have any toilet facility at all. According to A Situation Analysis of Ghanaian Children and Women launched by United Nations Children Fund, only 48 percent of primary schools in Ghana had access to adequate toilet facilities as at 2010. The situation according to recent reports hasn’t really changed. When nature calls, especially during class lessons; pupils are compelled to walk for some time to a nearest toilet facility. In the process, they lose out on important class lessons. Some students also use this situation as basis for playing truancy.
A child’s right to education, as stipulated in article 28 and 29 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, requires that children benefit from school work. Provision of toilet facilities in schools would go a long way to ensure quality education and thereby, the enjoyment of the right mentioned.
We cannot under estimate the effects of limited availability and accessibility to toilet facilities. The discomfort that stomach down turn alone brings, especially when toilet facility is a bit far, is enough for us to acknowledge the need to establish one in our various houses. I call on various Central and Federal(local) governments to enact or enforce laws which would require each household to have a toilet facility. When this happens, the pressure on public toilet facilities will reduce.
The media, as the mouthpiece of society, shouldn’t just limit sensitization programmes on the need for improved toilet facilities to the celebration of World Toilet Day. It should be an on-going process until we see an improvement in sanitation and toilet facilities in particular.
As we think of what to eat, so we must think of how to properly dispose what becomes the faeces. If you are not infected, you are affected in one way or the other. Recent cholera outbreak in Ghana was largely, as a result of poor sanitation. There is the need for individuals, land lords and local authorities to establish or improve already existing toilet facilities and make them sustainable.
For all young people, especially children, hand washing with clean, running water and soap should constantly be practiced. At least, that would place us on a safer side until we get the means to or our parents and leaders come in to make toilet facilities available, accessible and convenient for us.
In recent times, a number of female friends has asked me why some men often demand for sex in relationships before marriage. According to these ladies, refusal to give in often resulted in break-ups. Interestingly, some ladies have again stated that they had sex with their dudes as a proof of their love for them. Some guys also would often turn-up, proudly showing off with the number of ladies they’ve had sex with. As a young person, I wouldn’t be in a better position to give expert answers to this question or situations, but to discuss their relevance to the welfare of the youth.
During this Valentine’s season, I wonder the number of girls being pressured by their boyfriends for sex, and of course, those who would willingly allow sex just to maintain relationships. In previous celebrations of Val’s Day, rather unfortunate incidences were alleged to have been done: excessive alcohol intake, reckless driving, just to mention but a few. Again, media reports revealed how some beaches got ‘flooded’ with used condoms after such celebrations.
It is a good thing to show each other love and warmth, particularly on special occasions like Val’s Day. Buying loved ones hampers, Cards and passing time out somewhere makes the day worthwhile. But then, the way and manner in which some youngsters behave on Days like Valentine’s is quite worrying. A wrong impression is gradually being created that Val’s day is a ‘must have sex’ period, especially among the youth. Even though I don’t fancy sex (before marriage) among young people, I feel the use of condoms puts those who can’t abstain in a safer position. But those who engage in unprotected sex stand a high risk of contracting Sexually Transmitted Infections. Suffering and stigmatization, as end results, become burdens for their respective families. Nations and communities lose great human resource as well.
The inexorable ladies become obedient and often join their parents in the kitchen after impregnated. Education usually ends there for most of them. Increase in teenage pregnancy, leading to school dropouts and somehow infant and maternal mortality could be a threat to Ghana’s(and other African Countries) efforts in achieving some key targets under goals 2, 4 and 5 of the Millennium Development Goals. These goals aim to achieve Universal Basic Education, reduce Infant mortality and promote maternal health respectively by 2015.
Not too long ago, the Government of Ghana made an effort to promote Ghana’s cocoa and its related products on Valentine’s Day. This was a laudable idea which could have promoted Ghanaian cocoa and to some extent, help the economy. Chocolate Day as it became known has rather received little publicity, especially this year. It will be prudent for stakeholders to reconsider promoting Ghana’s chocolate and other cocoa products on this day.
Young people are leaders of today and the days yet to come. We ought to be actively involved in the development process leading to tomorrow. Remember that just one extreme enjoyment on Val’s Day may be the end of the road for you in attaining your goals. Developing Nations, I believe, can’t afford to lose the quality of their youth.
I suggest we intensify Adolescent, Sexual and Reproductive health education, especially in the media and schools. We need to understand better our sexuality, so as to take firm and informed decisions. Counseling Units and Youth-friendly centres should be improved or established with personnel with requisite skills in counseling and sensitization on sexual and reproductive health issues.
Val’s Day is a moment of love, and therefore, I wish you a happy Valentine. However, if it must be done, it must be done well. “A stitch in time saves nine”.
I am Gabriel, a communication student of the Ghana Institute of Journalism. I have been a youth volunteer for the past five years as a means of fulfilling an inner quest of assisting to improve the lives of young people in and around Accra, my birth place. I tackle a number of young people-related issues which cuts across education, health, and policy formulation and implementation. I do these on radio programmes, community outreaches and discussions among peers. One issue I feel so passionate about is HIV/AIDS.
Few years ago, I shied away from skinny people with the fear of being infected with the virus by such persons. This preconceived notion came about as a result of how the disease was portrayed some years back. Aside being termed ‘Deadly’, some of us learned from school textbooks how ‘bonny’ and ‘dead-bound’ persons with AIDS were.
I strongly held on to my principle of alienation until the death of a close relative when I got to know he had lived with AIDS for the past five years. I never imagined I could be that close with the disease. My perception about HIV and AIDS changed from there. However, I got to know through this experience, how fast discrimination and stigmatization could make a person with HIV/AIDS die. I realized that the relative might have stayed longer had it not been the cold relationship meted out to him by family and friends.
As the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon once said, “Stigma remains the most important barrier to public action. It is a main reason why too many people are afraid to see a doctor to determine whether they have the disease, or to seek treatment if so. It helps make AIDS the silent killer, because people fear the social disgrace of speaking about it, or taking easily available precautions.”
At this juncture, let us all intensify our commitment in the response to HIV/AIDS even beyond the on-going International Conference on AIDS and STI’s in Africa (ICASA) in Addis Ababa,Ethiopia. Stakeholders, including governments, the media, pressure groups, religious organizations and individuals have a lead role to play in HIV/AIDS treatment, care and support at policy, strategy programs, implementation as well as monitoring and evaluation levels. We need to own the process of solving AIDS-related problems and sustain the level of progress being made in halting and reversing the spread of AIDS in our part of the world.
Millennium Development Goal 6 of the United Nations hopes to have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV and AIDS. Making this target see the light of day means that we really go by the theme of ICASA which seeks to scale-up all possible responses in addressing the critical gaps in prevention, treatment, care and support across Africa; where the disease is reported to have affected many lives.
The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day, “Getting to Zero” simply tells us that response to HIV and AIDS prevention ‘is not over until it is over’, hence the need to keep the momentum. It is prudent to intensify sensitization programmes, revive peer educators clubs in schools and communities, empower and live peaceably with all persons living with HIV and AIDS even beyond the ICASA conference.
For us as young people, I believe the message is clear, ‘prevention is better than cure’. You are either infected or affected. Let us all abstain, otherwise condoms should be used consistently.