It is the hope of many youngsters to become self actualized and responsible adults. But for many children in Ghana and other parts of Africa,this hope could be a mirage. The situation in which they find themselves do not just allow them to have the quality education and health care every child needs to develop.
A visit to Gemeni in the Volta region revealed the kind of hardship some children go through. As I stood by the Volta lake, which was boarded by mountains, in Gemeni,and watched children go on their usual fishing expeditions, it was clear that most of them have been trafficked and brought here to work.
Master Holy, a 17year old fisher folk narrated how his parents gave him out to traffickers in exchange for money. Holy revealed how some children were killed and used as baits to get more fishes in the Volta lake. "I am happy that my parents are dead. They would have renewed my contract and collected monthly salaries from those i stay with,if they were alive", Holy added.
Children with great ambitions in Akutuasi in the Central region had to be on cocoa farms as their parents wished because that was the main source of income for their families. The situation in James town,a suburb of Accra,was no different. I was amazed with what I saw right in the heart of the capital city-Teenage pregnancy,children in fishing,drug abuse,school drop outs and poor sanitation. Despite the introduction of certain educational policies like the Capital grant, and School Feeding programme by the government,some children in Jamestown were still out of school. Parents claimed they had no money for the up-keep of their families, citing unemployment as a factor.
Ghana was the first country to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990. Article 28 and 29 of it require that children have access to quality education and must benefit from school work. From the situation narrated, it is clear that enjoyment of those rights are out of reach from some children in Gemeni, Akutuasi and Jamestown. Innocent children keep on facing hardship mainly because some parents and other stakeholders are not giving out their utmost best.
It really feels good to have the Children's Act 560, the Juvenile Justice Act, the Human Trafficking Act and other related laws in place as means to ensure the best interest of children. But it would be better to have them implemented than left on the shelves to be covered with dust.
It is good that the Accra Metropolitan Assembly(AMA) has abolished the school shift system in the Accra Metropolis to ensure regular attendance at school and an increase in school hours. This should be replicated in other regions, with more focus on infrastructural development,classes held under trees,provision of teaching materials and teacher motivation.
Gone are the days when physical assets were left behind for children as inheritance. The best legacy,a parent can give to his or her child in this 21st century is education. Skills and knowledge acquisition through education will make individuals make rational choices,get descent job and become successful in life.
Every child counts! Education is a right and not a privilege.
© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-2384/Giacomo Pirozzi Mali, 2009 A girl touches her school supplies in a UNICEF-supported child-friendly primary school in the rural village of Guivagou, in Mopti Region. These supplies include a slate, a piece of chalk, a thin notebook, a pen and a bundle of sticks. A small piece of bread rests on her notebook.
A senior research fellow at Legon Centre for International Affairs(LECIA) at the University of Ghana-Legon, Dr. Vladimir Antwi Danso has urged young people to use legitimate and constitutional means to get their concerns addressed,and not through radical means. In his view, "Radicalism without rationalism is sheer stupidity". Dr. Antwi-Danso was addressing young people at a quarterly Youth Colloquium organized by the Children and Youth In Broadcasting-Curious Minds at the British Council in Accra.
Speaking on the theme: "Accelerating Youth Empowerment for a Sustainable Development", Dr. Antwi-Danso said empowerment of youth will position them to promote development and not as agents of destruction instead. He added that with "vibrant,empowered and well informed youth,Africa can overcome".
Present at the colloquium were Mr. Kingsley Obeng-Kyereh,Executive Coordinator of Curious Minds, Mr. Archibald Donkor,National Youth authority, and Dr. Alabo,Director for Africa and Regional Integration Bureau at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs And Regional Integration.Others were students,persons with disabilty,members of Planned Parenthood Association-Ghana(PPAG) and Curious Minds.
In a short message, Mrs. Adwoa Nyanteng Yenyi,a Programmes Officer with PPAG revealed that many young people are in need of Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health(ASRH) messages. Yenyi called on stake holders to invest in the education and empowerment of young people since their health and development are directly related to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals(MDGs) targets.
Mr. Hamza Suhini, President of National Union of Ghana Students(NUGS), stated that there are opportunities for young people, but as to whether those opportunities are being used well is an issue to look at. Mr. Suhini admitted that there are many young people in the various media establishments who are excelling, but their programme content, he said are not young people related. He further said that addressing young people's issues is a collective responsibility which should not be left for government alone. He concluded by saying,"The battle for our development is not for Political Parties,but a battle for young people".
In his closing Remarks, the chairperson for the occasion, Mr. Dennis Ofosu Appiah advised the youth to use the opportunities that come their way well. Mr Appiah, who is also the head at Centre for Constitutional Order added that young people must learn to create opportunities where there seems to be none.
As the programme reached its tail end,participants had the chance to engage guest speakers in some interactions. Some students made it known that the colloquium was impressive. They requested for it to be replicated in other regions. According to them, statements made by guest speakers inspired them.
Photo: Dr. Vladimir Antwi Danso
Father's Day is a celebration which honors fathers and father-like figures. It also celebrates fatherhood,paternal bonds and the influence of fathers in society. This day serves as a means to reflect over what fathers have done and the need to show gratitude to them. On days like this, some individuals arrange for presents including electronics,greetings cards,hampers,special dinners and family-oriented activities for their fathers. Truly, fathers deserve to be honored on special days like this.
However,celebration of Father's Day over the years, has not received maximum attention from many individuals. I became a bit surprised when i got to know some friends were unaware of this year's celebration on June 19th. Those who knew about the day were not willing to talk about it. They claim their fathers haven't done much in their up-bringing to deserve a commendation. Generally in Africa, many individuals have raised similar concerns about some fathers not playing their roles as expected.
The United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the child (Adopted in 1989 and Ratified in 1990 by UN member states) clearly states in article 18 that, parents(father and mother) have a joint responsibility in raising up their children. But as it is now, it seems most of the parental roles had been left for mothers alone to carry them out.On 18th June 2011(a day before Father's Day was marked), Joy FM, a private radio station in Accra reported the arrest of an 18 year-old teenage mother who allegedly buried her day-old baby in the Northern part of Ghana. Through interrogation by the police,the girl said she was compelled to do so because the man who impregnated her ran away. In my candid opinion, this to a large extent,wouldn't have happened if the gentleman accepted responsibility of that pregnancy. This is just one out of many instances where some fathers have abandoned their fatherly roles and cared less for the growth of their families.
What ever the case may be, I still strongly believe that Father's Day must be embraced by all. We need to appreciate and show gratitude to hardworking fathers. Some have really been able to look after their children very well -Being caring,loving and instilling discipline in their wards.
I hope this day will serve as a 'wake-up' call to fathers who are not performing their roles as expected. They should reflect over what ever they have done in the past years and try to carry out their roles well in the family. "Two heads are better than one" it is often said;or better still, "it takes two to tango". Mothers can't do it all alone. We need fathers on board to holistically raise children in the right way. Fathers must learn to spend quality time with their children and make sure they get the best in life.
From the deepest part of my heart, I say happy Father's Day to all fathers and father-like figures!
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World Day Against Child Labour has been marked at the Teachers' Hall in Accra. The celebration was on the theme; 'Warning! Children in Hazardous Work: End Child Labour'. World Day Against Child Labour,which is celebrated on 12th June each year, was initiated by the International Labour Organization(ILO) in 2002 as a way to highlight the plight of children in child labour. This year's event was jointly organized by the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare and International Labour Organization.
In a short remarks, a representative from Organized Labour called on government to create employment opportunities for adults.This in his view,will make them earn income to help their children. He stressed on the need for children to be educated and child traffickers to be dealt with in accordance with the laws of Ghana.
In a speech read on her behalf, Hon. Juliana Azumah Mensah,Minister for Women and Children's Affairs, showed that it is everyone's responsibility to assist children; citing the theme for the event as appropriate. She revealed what her ministry has done so far to implement the Human Trafficking Act of Ghana(Act 694).
As the programme progressed, Master Dominic Mpraim, an Ex-child worker, shared his experience. Dominic is 15years old and in class one. At age five, his parents gave him to a fisherman in exchange for 50,000 cedis(GHC50). He was sent to Yeji, a fishing community along the Volta lake of Ghana. According to Dominic, he was made to work all day-disentangling entangled nets in the lake,mending fishing nets,farming and other related activities. Dominic said he was rescued by Challenging Heights,a non-governmental organization, few years ago and has since been in school. He called on stake holders to get to the aid of other children who find themselves in similar situations.
Master Kwaku Marfo,who represented Ghanaian children at the programme, called for respect of child rights and the need for children to be given the platform to participate in activities that concern them. There were poetry recitals and other performances from children.
The event was also used to launch the National Plan of Action(NPA) for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour in Ghana(2009-2015) and the ILO Convention No. 138 on the Minimum Age of Employment. Delivering the Keynote Address,Professor Kofi Awoonor,President of Ghana's Council of state, called on District Assemblies and other concerned institutions to work with the Plan of Action in order to bring a halt to child labour in Ghana.
In attendance were Hon. Antwi Boasiko-Sekyere, Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Welfare,Professor Kofi Awoonor,President of Council of State and Dr. Iyabode Olusanmi,UNICEF Country Representative. Others include, Ambassador Donald Teitelbaum,US Ambassador to Ghana, Mrs Akua Ofori- Asumadu, ILO Representative,young people's advocacy groups and school children.
Photo Credits: Flickr/Creative Commons