Research undertaken by the African Centre for Human Development (ACHD) has revealed a high rate of child trafficking across the country. The centre has, therefore, called for a concerted effort by all to eliminate the menace.
A Programme Officer of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Mr Patrick Asare-Nelson, described the situation in Ghana as “an organised crime involving recruiters, transporters, receivers, distributors and employers”.
He was speaking at a one-day workshop for social mobilisation partners against child labour (SOMOPAC) in the country organised in Accra by the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) and sponsored by ILO.
Mr Asare-Nelson stated that communities dealing in child trafficking were divided into “sending and receiving”, with Kpandu, Dzemini, Ningo, Prampram, Ada, Denu, Senya, Tamale and Elmina being the “senders”, while Accra, Sekondi-Takoradi, Kumasi, Yeji, the Afram Plains and the islands in the Volta Lake were the “receivers”.
Providing more clarification on the issue of child labour and child or light work, he submitted that Section 90(2) of the Children's Act 1998, Act 560, defined light work as one which was unlikely to be harmful to the health or development of the child so as to affect the child's attendance in school.
He said children who involved themselves in light work, such as washing dishes and assisting in cooking, and combined that with schooling acquired basic knowledge and skills and a sense of responsibility which was beneficial to them and society.
On the other hand, Mr Asare-Nelson contended, child labour was performed by persons below the age of 18 years, with the tendency to deprive them of their basic human rights, which could also be abusive, hazardous, exploitative and harmful to the safety of the child.
“Hawking, truck pushing, shepherd boys, bar attendants and blind guides are forms of work which deny children of education or do not allow children to benefit fully from school,” he added.
He explained that currently the Volta Region had the highest number of 33.2 per cent of children working in the country, followed by Western with 27.1 per cent, Eastern, 25.2 per cent, Northern, 24.2 per cent, and Upper East, 19.1 per cent.
The rest are Central, 17.1 per cent, Ashanti, 14.8 per cent, Greater Accra ,13.9 per cent, Upper West, 13.1 per cent, and Brong Ahafo, 11.6 per cent.
Mr Asare-Nelson attributed the situation to parental irresponsibility, since a survey conducted by the Ghana Statistical Service on Ghana Child Labour Survey, 2000 indicated that 91 per cent of both parents of working children were alive.
He cited a situation at Botianor, near Accra, in which a parent was prepared to part with a child for only ¢20,000, which indicated that neglect of parental responsibility, among others, was a major cause of child labour in the country.
The President of the GJA, Mr Ransford Tetteh, lauded the project and said it provided the platform for journalists who wished to specialise in social issues of child labour to access and evaluate information on the situation in order to articulate the concerns of society on the issue.
He said apart from strengthening the collaboration between the media and civil society in the fight against policies considered inimical to child rights and development, the project would also help all stakeholders, including journalists, to understand clearly the issue of child labour.
Mr Tetteh, therefore, urged the participants to devote their time to the elimination of the menace by seeking to understand the issues at stake and help in their speedy elimination.
The Deputy President of the GJA, Mr Affail Monney, who chaired the workshop, called on government agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and faith-based organisations to intensify efforts at bringing down poverty if the crusade on child labour was to succeed.
He said in the absence of access to education, children tended to indulge in work, instead of attending school, and called on the clergy and the Muslim communities to be more instrumental in playing advocacy on the dangers of child labour.
Story By Hilda Owusu