By Rite News Desk:
Though there is nothing wrong in seeing young boys at the Agomanya market in the Lower Manya Krobo municipal of the Eastern region struggling to make a living for themselves, the rate of their exclusion from school is alarming. They do not benefit from learning and this greatly impedes their intellectual and social development.
These boys, undeniably from disadvantaged backgrounds, are compelled to abandon their education without having acquired the basics in order to work and provide support for the family.
You therefore won’t be far from the truth if you placed youngsters caught in the murky world of child labour at market, a thriving market in the municipality in this category.
Several of these children between the ages of ten and seventeen years hardly miss what they see as an opportunity to make some living through sweating it out on the traditional market days of Wednesdays and Saturdays.
One of them, 16-year-old Bismark, pushes the wheelbarrow because according to him, he does not have a father.
‘I don’t have a father and I’m using the proceeds from the truck pushing to pay for my school fees, clothes and feeding. I make between GHC 15 to GHC 20 a day. It’s my dream to become a footballer in the future so I’m pleading with the District Chief Executive (DCE) to rescue me from my current situation so that I can have time for school to build my future,’ he lamented to this reporter during an interaction at the market.
With a daily wage of between Gh 15 and Gh c 20, the kids mostly primary school boys think pushing a wheelbarrow full of goods for the market women is not a bad business. The general story has been their resolve either to solely cater for themselves or supplement what they get from their parents and guardians.
For Borboyo Joseph, a JHS student, this is not the kind of job he wants to do for the rest of his life. He tells Rite news of his aspirations to be a policeman in future.
‘I’m in Junior High School and due to lack of support I have to go into truck pushing to support myself and the family. I pay GHC 4 daily for the hiring of the truck. I use some of the money I make for up keeping and save the rest with a micro finance company. I make between GHC 15 to GHC 20 daily. It is my dream to become a police officer in the future because I like their job,’ Joseph told this reporter.
When Rite news caught up with Joseph’s mother at the Agomanya market, we discovered that she’s an assistant to a woman who sells gari and beans at the market, the same market where her son also goes about his usual business. The inference is that she has no choice but to look on helplessly as her son engages in the wheelbarrow pushing business; in fact according to her, she pushed them into the business herself.
According to her, she has no choice but to look on helplessly to see her son push the wheelbarrow. ‘In fact, I personally pushed him into the business,’ she stated.
Another youngster Rite news caught up with was fourteen-year-old Tetteh Prince. He, just as his friends, earns a living pushing trucks at the market to support his family.
According to him, his mother is very sick and he has no choice but to push the truck to support her and also care for his school fees and clothing. ‘I’m in class six and it is my dream to become a footballer in the future. I come to the market during market days only and I make between GHC 15 to GHC 20,’ he revealed.
Some children are also caught in this situation due to some peculiar undertones. For Emmanuel Amu for instance, he is forced to be in this situation because his mother is mad, adding that his father pushed him into the business.
‘My mother is mad and my father is a mason. My father told me to go into the truck pushing business so that I can support myself in terms of my pocket money and clothing while he take care of my school fees,’ Emmanuel pointed out.
Emmanuel however does not intend to do this job forever. He is ready to jump out should the helping hand show up. Though one or two people have every now and then promised helping him out if he stopped pushing the wheelbarrow, he’s disappointed that this is never the case.
This market woman who doesn’t want her name mentioned has shown some benevolence towards three of the children by enrolling them in school. According to her, she decided to help them because she’s touched by their plight.
‘I used to tell the children pushing the truck that they are too young for the business and we keep advising them to stop but they also keep giving excuses that they don’t have anybody to take care of them so they don’t have any option than to push the truck to make a living,’ she told Rite news.
She has a piece of advice for her fellow market women who engage the boys – stop patronizing their services and they will withdraw from coming to the market.
Madam Susanne kpabitey is the market queen of the Agomanya market. Just as many concerned people, she’s equally frustrated with what goes on at the market. She however attributes the problem to the fact that some of these children come from broken homes while others engage in these jobs simply out of truancy.
Madam Kpabitey contends that those behind the hiring of the wheelbarrows to these kids should also be tackled to ensure that the situation is dealt with.
She was worried that this situation arose as a result of broken homes which invariably lead to some kids living on their own.
‘Some of the children do not have parents or guardians. There is this boy called Tetteh Kwao who also pushes the truck in the market. I personally visited him and realized that he lives with the grandmother. This further underscores the fact that some of them do not have any strong care takers.’
She also blamed the owners of the wheelbarrows for hiring it out to the young men without any regulations. Madam Kpabitey thus called on the municipal assembly to invite those hiring the wheelbarrows to a meeting to iron out what can be done to halt the canker.
She also suggested that the District Assembly make a booklet in the form of a ticket for every truck pusher which should contain each child’s relatives’ names and address which will testify that indeed the child does not have any care taker or he is just playing truancy and after this ‘someone may be touched to help some of these children.’
‘As the market queen, I’m worried about the situation and we went to the District Assembly on this issue severally since we know every Assembly has some help for these children but the Lower Manya Krobo and Yilo Krobo Assemblies have closed their eyes to the issue and some of the parents also contribute to the problem.
She therefore believes that one way out to tackle this is for the district assemblies to step in. She believes that delving into the problem could pave the way for kind-hearted individuals to step in and offer a helping hand to the affected children.
Mrs. Naa Akuyea Ofosu is the Director of The Department of Social Welfare, Lower Manya Krobo Municipal Assembly. She tells us that although her outfit is aware of the situation, their hands are tied because some members of society including affected families of the children resist any moves to clear the children off the market.
Madam Naa also adds that the much needed resources to help their drive are non-available.
In conclusion, madam Naa contends that the problem of child labour in the municipality needs to be tackled as a matter of urgency.
About 1.9 million children in Ghana between the ages of five and seventeen are involved in child labour, a Ghana Statistical Service 2015 survey revealed. 1.2 million Children out of that number in the same age group are engaged in dangerous forms of child labour.
The GSS, which conducted the Ghana Living Standards Survey Round Six (GLSS6) in October 2013, also indicated that the number of children who do not go to school but participate in economic activities was higher than those in school.
The 2013 survey also indicated that children who participated in economic activities while attending school constituted 26.3 per cent while their non-schooling counterparts constituted 41.6 per cent. The survey revealed that male children in child labour were slightly higher than females while the number in the rural areas is higher than those in the urban areas.
According to the survey, children in the rural savannah areas who participated in economic activities was higher as compared to those in the rural forest and rural coastal areas. As young as they are, some youngsters are forced to work in the market to supplement what their families earn.
The proportion of children who participated in economic activities among the 15-17 years bracket was 42.9 per cent while those in the five and seven year group was 9.9 per cent.
Most surveys have attributed the causes of child labour to poverty and low incomes. These surveys indicated that until parents were able to support themselves financially, children would continue to be used to help complement household incomes.
The Upper West Region has the highest percentage of children, that is 92.4 per cent engaged in agricultural activities while the Upper East Region recorded the highest proportion of working children who were repeatedly beaten at work. Working children who engaged in child labour and other forms of hazardous work were often exposed to various forms of abuses at the workplaces.
In conclusion, everybody has a stake and a role to play in child development. What Ghana’s children need now is education, not labour. Child labour is a national menace and which we can’t run away from. The more we play the ostrich and close our eyes to the problem, the worse it grows – we have no option!