Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Combating Child Labour in Ghana

I’m sure you’ll agree with me that one major constraint on Ghana’s economic growth has been inadequate human capital development. I recently stumbled upon research carried out by a friend of mine which investigates the causes and effects of child labour on a child’s formal education. The study was carried out in Dorimon, a community near Wa in the Upper West Region. Even though I had a fair assumption of child labour activities especially among rural folk in Northern Ghana, some of the findings I came across in the report were inconceivable and utterly unacceptable. I’m sure many of us are aware of what constitutes child labour, but I doubt many people are aware of exactly how intensely it is practised within many of our communities. A survey conducted in 2003 estimates that more than 242,000 children are engaged in hazardous work while over one million children under 15 years are estimated to be working in Ghana (Daily Graphic, June 7, 2008 pg 11). In Dorimon, the figures are alarming to the extent that nine out of every ten children in the community are said to be involved in child labour.

Simply defined as work that deprives children of their physical and mental development, child labour is a very worrying phenomenon that does not only deprive children of having a sound and happy childhood, but in extreme cases can lead to loss of life. The study further revealed that children get involved in all kinds of activities such as selling farm produce, pito brewing, serving in chop bars, charcoal burning (wood charring),quarrying, firewood fetching, commercial agriculture and domestic servitude among others. The research, carried out in the upper primary (class 4, 5 and 6) and Junior High School (JHS) 1 and 2 in the Dorimon School revealed that out of a total 233 pupil interviewed, 163(about 70%) were involved in child labour. This renders schooling useless as they get little or no time to attend school and to revise what they are taught.

Some of the causes of child labour include single parenting, poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, desire for quick money by children and ill-health of parents. Unsurprisingly however, poverty was seen by 80% of respondents to be the major reason for the practice. Due to the desire to better their living conditions, most parents consider it a necessity to engage their children in the practice. Some socio-cultural practices are also responsible for the scourge of child labour. Boys who attain the age of eight are mandated to work on farms since they are considered to be the backbone of their families. Girls who attain this age on the other hand are made to sell at the market usually on market days. This is unacceptable considering the fact that their colleagues elsewhere are pursuing more productive hobbies such as reading and football during their free time.

The effects of child labour are simply too harrowing to mention. They range from issues of moral degeneration- where children are involved in sexual encounters resulting in teenage pregnancy- to severe injuries which vary from cuts and sores, and severe deformities, sometimes leading to death. Academic performance especially among children involved in child labour is very poor to say the least. Due to their involvement in child labour activities, children have no or very little time for academic work. Many do not attend school while those who do are probably half asleep during class and this has a telling effect on their performance. These children are supposed to be our future leaders for crying out loud and if they are being subjected to such cruelty and torture at such a young age, I’m not too sure we can expect much from them when they are old and mature enough to be in responsible positions.

Various organizations have set up sensitization programmes geared towards eliminating child labour in Ghana but there’s still more to be done. UNICEF for instance has in the past appointed a number of celebrities including Ghanaian-born former French football team captain, Marcel Dessailly as ambassadors against child labour. Perhaps more celebrities should be brought on board due to the influence and huge following they enjoy. It is high time that stakeholders come together to institute measures which will put an end to the canker. Government and NGOs in particular must come up with sensitization programmes to educate people on the harmful effects of child labour. For a country that has signed three key international treaties that ban certain practices of child labour and passed its own laws on the practice including the Children’s Act of 1998 and the Labour Act of 2003, we shouldn’t have to condone the practice any longer. As the popular saying goes, “actions speak louder than words”. If labour inspectors, who are tasked with detecting and reporting incidents of child labour to the relevant authorities, fail to do so, then all these laws and treaties being signed will not make the desired impact. Perpetrators should be brought to book to serve as a deterent to those actively engaged in exploiting children. Education must also be seen as the surest remedy to combat poverty and not child labour. Once these measures are taken, we can all be assured of a much brighter future for our dear nation Ghana.

This article was written by LSG Staff Writer Masahoud Codjoe and was published on his

1 comment:

Ananse Web said...

I'm starting to wonder about our house helps we've had over the years. Most of them came in as teenagers... eish! D'accord Mash!!!