Enrolment at School School enrolment has increased in cocoa growing areas of Ghana, according to a cocoa labour survey.
The survey was conducted by a multi-sectorial team including the Department of Agricultural Economics of the University of Ghana, Legon and the National Programme for the Elimination of Worst Form of Child Labour in Cocoa (NPECLC).
The research report covering 3,452 children who took part in cocoa farming activities revealed that enrolment shot up from 88 percent in 2006/7 academic year to 92 percent last year.
Ninety-nine (99) percent lived with their parents or close relations, indicating that they were neither slaved nor trafficked and only 13 percent were engaged in hazardous cocoa farm activities.
Speaking in an interview with CITY & BUSINESS GUIDE, the National Programme Manager of NPECLC, Rita Owusu-Amankwah explained that the rise in enrolment was due to vigorous sensitization programme embarked upon by her outfit in cocoa growing areas on the need for parents to send their children to school.
Mrs. Owusu-Amankwah added that apart from the sensitization programme, her outfit was also supporting the children with school uniforms and bags, footwear, books and other educational materials, emphasizing that all these had made parents more responsible towards their children's education.
She noted that the awareness creation programme was made possible with financial support of about $1.2million from Ghana Cocoa Board and some assistance and partnership with various ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs); district assemblies, non-governmental organisations, international donors and research institutions.
To further improve the status of children, Mrs. Owusu-Amankwah stated that a Hazardous Child Labour Activity Framework (HAF) has been established to form the basis for extensive awareness creation on what constitutes hazardous activity and permissible work by children.
The National Programme Manager noted that the awareness creation on HAF had already taken off in 46 of the 56 cocoa growing districts in the country and that with a strong partnership with the districts themselves and other organisations, all cocoa growing areas would be covered to achieve the government's objective of eliminating the worst forms of child labour in Ghana.
According to her, the District Assemblies had embraced the HAF programme and brought their own action plans that would make it successful.
Mrs. Owusu-Amankwah was grateful to all the supporting partners for their assistance and urged them to continuously support her outfit which was under the Ministry of Manpower, Youth and Employment and Government to carry out some of the recommendations of the research findings in dealing with child labour in the country.
For instance, the report revealed that ignorance on the part of parents might be the reason why some children were still engaged in hazardous work.
There was therefore the need for a comprehensive sensitization of cocoa communities on occupational safety and health as well as national laws against the use of children.
It had also been suggested that in the National Youth Employment Programme, modules could be developed on cocoa cultivation to encourage youth into cocoa farming and provide them with employable skills and livelihood.
By Awudu Mahama