Ghana: Northern, Upper East & West Are the Suppliers of Street Kids in Kumasi
Public Agenda (Accra)
21 May 2007
Oppong Baah Writes From Kumasi
Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Asantehene, addressing the Asanteman Council a few years back, advised Chiefs in the country to adopt meaningful measures to assist the unfortunate ones in the society. He said unless chiefs took the welfare of children seriously the number of street children could become uncontrollable. Otumfuo’s anxiety seems to be taking root.
A survey conducted in 2003 showed that about 23, 000 porters roamed the streets of Kumasi, with the number increasing each day.
A visitor to Kumasi in the early morning or late afternoon will be perplexed by the number of pan – carrying young females at the centre of the city.
Mostly indigenes from the three northern regions- Upper East, Upper West and Northern – their business is to carry any load whether heavy or light for a fee loads. The charge depends on load size and distance involved.
What the females do with pans on their heads, their male counter parts , popularly called truck pushers, do with their trucks.
Several reasons have been adduced for the swarming of Kumasi by these boys and girls many of school going age .
According to Mr. George Baffour Owusu Afriyie, Executive Director of Street Children Development Foundation (SCDF), NGO, idleness as a result of dropping out of school, poverty, lack of parental love for children, are some of the causes of the massive migration to the South.
He mentioned peer pressure, economic factors and on a smaller scale, forced – marriages, as agents in the north – south movement of the youth.
He explained that the geographical position of Kumasi makes it more vulnerable to the phenomenon of street children, as it offers a transit point to migrants from all parts of the country and beyond. These migrants, he said, more often than not terminate their journey in Kumasi and through the Asante hospitality and good neighborliness, resort to any manner of livelihood to sustain themselves.
Like any other job, being a load carrier or porter has its advantages and disadvantages.
On a good day a porter can earn between ¢ 30, 000 and ¢ 50, 000. On bad days, however, a porter has to fall on a colleague to have something to eat. The girls are compelled to satisfy the sexual desires of their male counterparts to get food to eat. Due to such instances a number of young girls become pregnant and have to go back home.
To alleviate their suffering and make them feel a little comfortable far away from home SCDF has acquired an old factory building where hundreds of porters are housed. But managing such a place has not been a tea party for the NGO.
“Our objective is to give these young migrants a sense of community belonging but providing the needs of such a large group of people is not easy and is becoming increasingly difficult”, Mr. Owusu Afriyie confesses.
To address the issue of teenage migration he cautioned against child trafficking and called on the government to take a hard stand on perpetrators of child trafficking.
He also appealed to parents, guardians and other adults who engage children in paid jobs to stop the practice since it goes against their educational and social development.
The SCDF Director called on district assemblies in the three northern regions to enact stringent bye – laws to deal ruthlessly with irresponsible parents who neglect their school going children and ensure that children are kept, in school in conformity with the country’s free and compulsory basic education policy.
He suggested that parliament enacts a law making it impossible for teenage children to travel from the north to the south without parental accompaniment.