The Agormanya market in the Lower Manya Krobo District of the Eastern Region has turned a hot spot for child labour where countless children of school going age, mainly driven by survival instincts, engage in jobs detrimental to their health.
The children mostly aged between 10 and 15 years evade classes in their respective schools to do business all day on Wednesday, the main market day at Agormanya as well as on Saturday. While majority of them cart the goods of their clients in hired wheelbarrows and on trucks, others who can't afford hiring the equipment carry heavy loads across the length and breadth of the market just to keep body and soul intact.
As if to encourage the trade, some businessmen in the area have taken advantage of the booming trade to engage in the business of hiring the wheelbarrows and other such equipment to the children at the cost of GHC 1.50 a day.
Some of the children interviewed linked their plight to the lack of parental support and the need for survival. Others clearly admitted they were enticed into the business by the plush spending habit in school of their colleagues who first ventured into the trade. They indicated that their number is fast rising because most of their friends keep expressing interest in the trade and they join soon after.
In an interview, 12-year-old Tetteh Daniel, a pupil of the Agormanya Methodist Primary School said “I do this to support my ailing grandmother and siblings and to cater for my educational needs; I wish I could also enjoy a hustle-free life like my other colleagues from good homes but conditions dictate otherwise”.
He said “My dad is deceased and my mum lives with my stepfather in the city but she hardly shows any concern for our welfare”.
Mrs. Irene Ayernor, Director of Education of the Lower Manya Krobo District confirmed knowledge of the phenomenon and described it as unfortunate. She said the phenomenon has a direct effect on the overall academic performance in the district because it reduces the contact /instructional hours between the teacher and the children. We realize some of the children come to school really tired and in a psychological state unsuitable for academic work”.
Asked what her outfit was doing to stem the tide, she said “ The District Education Oversight Committee including myself, the District Chief Executive, representatives from the District Assembly and the Traditional Council held series of meetings and advised the District Assembly to enact bye-laws that would empower us to deal drastically with the situation”. She said the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and the School Management Committee (SMC) have all been tasked to educate the parents, adding “I even go to the market personally to put fear in the children”.
The District Chief Executive, Isaac Agbo Tetteh told said his outfit has set a task force comprising the Police Service, Social Welfare, Commission on Human Right and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Ministry of Women and Children Affair (MOWAC) and the National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO) to ascertain the main cause of the phenomenon.
He said there would be a one month sensitization programme with the use of the Assembly's information van to make both parents and the children aware of the effect of the practice before the task force zooms into action to arrest the children. “After the arrest, those found to have dropped out of school would be sent back with support; the rest would also be sorted out depending on their needs while steps are taken to deter them from going back to the trade”.
Last year, the district recorded 49.62% pass rate in the Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE), with three schools scoring zero percent, a further decline in the performance in the district.
In a different development, a nine member Interim Management Committee has been inaugurated to steer the operations of the District Assembly until the resolution in the Supreme Court of the Akuse boundary dispute which has since prevented the conduct of the Assembly elections in the district.
The committee, chaired by Mrs. Juliana Teyegaga, a former Presiding Member (PM) of the district is made up of the District Chief Executive, Isaac Agbo Tetteh; the District Coordinating Director, Mr. Peter Nimo; Dr. Mamle Peace Tetteh, a lecturer at the University of Ghana and Mr. Lawrence Tetteh Sika, immediate past Information Officer of the district.
The rest are Manye Esther Nateki I, Ag. Paramount Queenmother of the Manya Krobo Traditional Council, Mr. Philip Wekple, a court registrar, Alhaji Mumuni Mutaka, a Muslim representative.