Bukari, 10 and his three friends are yet to chance on their first benevolent giver since they set out on the streets of Accra six hours ago on a sunny day.
Drenched in sweat and looking dejected, these children embrace the windows of every passing car at a traffic intersection that connects to Accra’s busy Central Business District with the hope of appealing to the compassion of drivers and passengers for money.
If they fail to get any money by the close of day, they would have to sleep on an empty stomach. In recent days, sleepingwithout food appears to be the norm as the money collected is not enough to feed them at least twice a day.
Bukari is the third son of a single mother and the family reside in Fadama, one of Accra’s largest slum communities.
The mother is not able to raise enough money from her petty trade, and thus, her children hustle on the streets to fend for themselves.
Unlike Bukari’s two siblings who have never been to school, he dropped out of school three years ago in Primary 2 due to what he described as “continuous hunger”.
“When I go to school, I don’t get food to eat. Sometimes my friends laugh at me. Some of the children in my area who do not go to school make money from the streets so they asked me to join them,” he said.
Child begging has become a growing phenomenon in Accra, where hundreds of children can be found on the streets begging for alms for survival.
The activity has also become a business venture for some irresponsible parents who profiteer from the toils of their children on the streets; regardless the health and safety ordeals the children go through.
Whiles their colleagues are in school, these children spend the whole day on the streets begging for money–and risk being exposed to the activities of criminals and all forms of abuse.
Basic education is
compulsory in Ghana but implementation of the policy has not been the best.
The Government has rolled out school feeding programme to encourage the children to be in school but the policy is not effectively implemented and not every basic school benefits from the programme.
Many of the children on the streets have also migrated from neighbouring African countries with ether their guardians or parents to settle in Accra to undertake the business.
Whiles their parents cool off under trees, the children are pushed onto the streets to beg and render accounts in the evening.
The activities of child beggars violates Section 87(1-2) of the Children’s Act, 1998 (Act 560), which prohibits exploitative child labour.
The law defines such labour as one that deprives the child of its health, education or development.
Section 6 of the ‘The Children’s Act, 1998 Act 560’ guarantees the fundamental rights of every child - the right to life, dignity, respect, leisure, liberty, health, education and shelter from his parents.
But for many years, Ghana has been struggling to curb the child begging phenomenon as it flourishes into an industry where some unscrupulous individuals engage children in the act for their personal benefits.
The United Nations International Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) estimates that there are more than 100,000 street children across the country.
These children do not have access to education, good health, decent clothing – and are sometimes abused by adults who should protect them.
A recent observation by the Child Rights International (CRI) at bus stops within the central parts of the Greater Accra region revealed that on average there are 2 to 7 children at every traffic light either begging for alms, assisting the elderly or disabled to beg for alms or engaged in some form of trading or service during school hours.
Every child has the right to quality education, health, protection and their general wellbeing must be guaranteed.
The rate at which children are invading the streets for survival should cause national concern.
Failure on the part of the State to take drastic measures to stop the trafficking of children into Ghana to undertake child begging business is shameful for a country that is a signatory to international conventions and has pledged to champion the rights of children within its territory.
Every parent has the responsibility to provide for their children.
However, in an event where a parent genuinelycannot cater for their child, social interventions should be put in place to safeguard the future of that child.
Let’s remember that if we fail our children today, we have failed our future.
By: Amanda Kporwofa