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25.08.2005 General News

Concerns of children, paramount to government - Minister


Accra, Aug. 25, GNA - Hajia Alima Mahama, Minister of Women and Children's Affairs, has said children's concerns were paramount in the national development agenda and government will continue to pursue pragmatic policies, plans and programmes to improve the overall well-being of all children in the country.

This, she urged district assemblies to incorporate children needs into their district development plans, they should also intensify their sensitisation programmes on children rights, to enable communities protect them.

The Minister made the statement in presentation made on her behalf at a National Children's Forum organised by the Child Rights International and Centre for Strategic Planning in Accra. It was sponsored by Action Aid Ghana.

The forum, which was attended by almost 300 pupils, students and teachers from learning institutions from Saltpond, Tamale and Accra, among other towns, was under the theme: "Give Ghanaian children a better today and expect the best out of them tomorrow."

The Minister's presentation was on the topic: "Positive change on the life of the Ghanaian child achievements, challenges and the way forward."

Hajia Mahama said the Constitution and other legal frameworks, including the "Convention on the rights of the child", made adequate provisions for the protection and preservation of children's rights. The Minister stated that irrespective of government efforts to improve the well-being of children in the country, cases of child labour, child trafficking, domestic violence against children were pervasive in the society.

She further stated, "It is however, refreshing that the Human Trafficking Bill has been passed by Parliament and offenders will be made to face the full rigours of the law."

According to her, the government has enacted and passed several legal and policy framework, which have had positive impact on the lives of our children", adding, "they include the Human Trafficking Bill, the Children's Act, the Criminal Code Amendment Act among others."

She noted that educational infrastructure such as the construction and rehabilitation of schools were on-going, while health facilities throughout the country were improved, thus making these key facilities accessible to children.

Hajia Mahama stressed that the private sector development agenda had paved way for an increase in private media houses whose sensitisation programme had assisted to reduce the incidence of child abuse and violence against children.

The Minister ascertained that HIV/AIDS policy also provided a framework for addressing problems of children affected by the disease and that her ministry continues to collaborate with development partners and NGOs, to address issues affecting children in the country, in the areas of health and education.

She said statistics from the Ghana Health Services revealed that, "malnutrition is the underlying cause of approximately 60 per cent of the 10.5 million annual deaths in children under five years of age globally.

The Minister disclosed that illiteracy among most parents had been a serious obstacle in the promotion of good nutrition in children, because it constituted an important aspect of the child's development. Mr. Christian Adu Atiemo, Chief Director, Office of the President, spoke on the theme and said: "freedom without control leads to anarchy" and therefore, advised children to endeavour to subject themselves to behavioural transformation.

Mr. Atiemo said parents should teach their children to develop the spirit of "give", because throughout their school life, they only develop the spirit of "take".

This, he said, like most graduates, especially doctors, who had "taken" from the nation, left the country after college without "giving", hence not rendering any service to the country, since they did not develop the spirit of "give" during their school life. In an address read for him, Togbe Afede XIV, Agbogbomefia, Asorgli State, noted that children were crucial in our developmental process, since the future of the nation depended on them.

Togbe Afede used the occasion to appeal to all and sundry, to support the government in its efforts to promote effective teaching and learning, without which the children would not live to expectation in future.

He advised children to learn seriously in order to take the mantle of leadership from their parents when they are old.

In a presentation on "effective communication for student-teacher relations" by Mr. Affail Monney, Deputy General Secretary of the Ghana Journalist Association (GJA), he said a student may have all the answers to questions, but his ability to craft the language and communicate the answers effectively may work to his disadvantage.

He said on the other hand, an intellectually challenged student or unqualified job applicant may sail through easily just for possessing the key of communication.

Mr Monney stated that communication came from the Latin word "communis" which meant common and that, anytime we communicated with someone either by writing, e-mail, space-to-space, mobile phone or gestures, we shared commonness with the person. According to him, "each person communicates with another by sending a message to his senses," saying, "a message may be received by sight, sound, touch, taste, smell or a combination of two or more of these senses".

He said: "communication is effective when the communicator finds the right way to express himself in order to establish empathy with those to whom he is addressing the message."

He noted that there were chaos and confusion as a result of bad communication at the work place, the school, in the military and in the larger society, adding, "statistics show that 85 per cent of marriage break-ups are due to bad communication."

Mr Monney stressed that effective communication was an essential component for academic success, marital stability, industrial harmony, organisational advancement and national progress.

He emphasised that all teachers were once students who also exhibited varying forms of imperfections in their time, hence "for the sake of effective communication, teachers must be sensitive to the needs and feeling of students."

The General Secretary stated: "for students who hold the key to our future well-being as a nation, there is the need to equip them adequately with all the communication tools they need."

Mrs. Juliana Adu-Gyamfi of Action Aid Ghana, spelt out the vision for her NGO as "a world without poverty and injustice in which every person enjoys their right to a life of dignity".

Mrs Adu-Gyamfi said, based on this, the Action Aid in concert with other like-minded organisations in advocacy work, were championing the cause of the poor and the excluded children.

She said, "we campaigned for the elimination of fees and other cost associated with education at the basic level and advocated for the full implementation of the FCUBE by government."

She explained that the forum offered the children the opportunity to discuss policies and issues that affected them and also, created a platform for them to interact with political and national leaders. Earlier, Mr. Bright Appiah, Executive Director of Child Rights International, was of the view that the forum sought to create an enabling atmosphere where children would be able to make major contributions to matters and issues, particularly those affecting the nation as a whole that would be taken on board in policy formulation. "Apart from discipline, you must have a vision and do everything possible to achieve that vision, if you want to be a doctor, start preparing towards it now," Mr Appiah advised the children. Mrs Joyce Osei Agyekum, Headmistress of Labone Secondary School who chaired the function called on students to read a lot, since reading makes students knowledgeable. She told them to keep themselves away from early sex in order for them to concentrate on their studies.

Mrs Agyekum advised them to desist from pointing at objects and people with their left hand, because that was not part of the Ghanaian custom and that, they should not copy blindly. 25 Aug. 05