Many children spend time in the streets during periods that should be spent in school or at home.Research conducted by the Department of Social Welfare indicates that there are 33,000 children living on the streets in the country.
According to the research, 75 per cent of all street children live in Accra and Kumasi, with 71 per cent of them being illiterate.
The Country Representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Dr Iyabode Olusanmi, made the revelation at this year’s celebration of the International Day of the African Child in Accra Thursday.
The celebration was on the theme, “All Together for Urgent Action in Favour of Street Children”.
The International Day of the African Child has been celebrated on June 16 every year since 1991 when it was first initiated by the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and now the African Union (AU).
The day honours those who participated in the Soweto Uprising in 1976 and also raises awareness of the continuing need for improvement in the education provided for African children.
In Soweto, South Africa, on June 16, 1976, about 10,000 black schoolchildren marched in a column more than half a mile long, protesting the poor quality of their education and demanding their right to be taught in their own language.
Hundreds of young students were shot.
More than 100 people were killed in the protests that ensued the following two weeks and more than 1,000 were injured.
The 2011 observance of the day seeks to contribute to widespread awareness of the dangers street children face, promote the taking of urgent steps to protect them and determine strategies for providing effective child protection and care.
Dr Olusanmi added that the theme was a real call to action for everyone, given the scientific, as well as physical, evidence.
“This theme challenges us to reflect on the data available on street children and advocates with civil society, the development partners and the government to mobilise all our efforts towards improved well-being of children and for greater resource mobilisation for the protection of children living on the street,” she added.
She noted that Ghana was the first country in the world to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child and, therefore, was bound by international law to act in the best interest of those children.
She gave assurance of UNICEF’s commitment to protect the vulnerable in society and expressed belief in strengthening community-based systems which were very effective in protecting children and preventing unsafe migration.
“Our approach is to support government institutions such as the departments of Social Welfare and Community Development to implement community-based protection interventions by empowering child protection teams (CPTs) to equip communities with the knowledge and skills required to take measures to prevent children from unsafe migration,” she said.
As a result of those efforts by UNICEF, some 19 communities in the Northern and Upper East regions are completely free of kayayeis, while 30 communities in the same regions have achieved 100 per cent birth registration.
The UNICEF Country Representative urged stakeholders to propose effective, innovative and sustainable child protection and care strategies and support child participation forums.
She commended the government’s efforts at incorporating children’s issues in the ongoing constitutional review and congratulated it on the recent launch of the National Plan of Action for the protection of orphans and vulnerable children.
One of the interventions of that action plan, she added, was the provision for the reunification and reintegration of orphans and vulnerable children, including street children, with families or within family-based care.
The Minister of Women and Children’s Affairs, Mrs Juliana Azumah-Mensah, called on all stakeholders and collaborators to continue to support the government to chart a good path for the young ones. She said the call for urgent action was a reminder that the active involvement of all duty bearers was critical to complement one another’s efforts at curbing the menace of streetism.
A number of social protection interventions and strategies were also in place to address the phenomenon of street children, she added.
These include the establishment of community child protection teams, the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP), the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA), the capitation grant and the school feeding programme, the implementation of the free compulsory universal basic education (FCUBE), the registration of young girls doing menial jobs (Kayayes), among others.