The irresponsibility of some parents, to cater adequately for their children, is gradually breeding more street children in the Tamale metropolis. The children are now using the Tamale main lorry station, behind the Ghana Telecom Offices, as their “homes,” where they sleep, bath and eat.
Even though some street-adults are also using the station as their sleeping place, about 75% of the people using the station as their home are children usually referred to as 'street children'.
Some of them are without parents and relatives, while others have been neglected by irresponsible parents. Cigarette smoking has become a part of their lives.
Nobody cares how they eat, sleep or access healthcare delivery. One can truly feel or get the clear picture on how these children are managing in life, only when you take the pain to roam the Tamale town in the night.
These youngsters, both boys and girls, ranging from the ages of 5 to 18, sleep together with some adults on pavements in front of people's stores, and on benches, especially around the bus-stops.
Most of them are involved in smoking, stealing and prostitution, like nobody's business. Some of them are eager to go to school or learn a trade, but have no support.
Reports available to Northern File, from the Youth Idleness Control Centre (YICC), a Tamale based non-governmental organisation (NGO) that helps some of these children to learn trades, has it that the Tamale Metropolis alone, hosts close to 4,000 street children who are going through all forms of abuses and difficulties.
However, this reporter asked the children, whether they saw themselves as street children? They all said yes! But they were ashamed of it, and did not like being called “street children”, and rather preferred to be called by their own names.
They are apparently very aware of how other people see them, because they told this reporter that they call themselves the 'bad street boys', because other people think they are bad, as some of them are into stealing to survive.
One other important aspect that was considered about the lives of the street children was their security in general. Because most people perceive them as neglected and abandoned children with irresponsible or no parents, they usually intimidate, harass, suppress and use them to their advantage.
But, the good thing is that most of them are very cautious of their lives, and thus dance to their own tunes, since they are fully aware that they have no relative to support or come to their defence, in case of any eventuality.
I asked them, in clear words, why they were not in school? And almost all of them expressed the desire to be in school. Some said though they had parents, they have no money to take them to school.
I quickly asked, “But don't you know basic education is free in Ghana?” The children intelligently replied, “So will the government give us books, bags, pencils, pens, sandals and uniforms? There is no room for us to sleep, and there will be no food after school.” Some said they have to work to support their family, and take care of junior ones, because their parents had died, or were sick, old, or just don't work at all.
The children expect to find work in the streets, find friends, earn money, and be able to bring money home to cater for their families.
The children get sick easily, so they tell me, and there is no money for medicines.
“If someone needs to go to hospital, we make contributions, and if someone hasn't earned money to buy food, we share what we have.”
However, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Youth Idleness Control Centre (YICC), Mr. Theodore Kofi Asamani, in an interview with Northern File, expressed grave worry about the challenges facing the children in the streets.
He pledged his outfit's readiness to help as many children as possible with skill training, to enable them have meaningful lives.