Ghana: Woes of the Street Child

Ghana: Woes of the Street Child
Ghanaian Chronicle (Accra)

OPINION
12 March 2008
Posted to the web 12 March 2008

Helena Selby

Children are always believed to be a gift from God, and are supposed to be taken care of appropriately, as they deserve. It is a good thing to have children of one’s own, especially when it is the expectation of the parents.

A country with about 40% of their population being children is sometimes considered to be a country of great future leaders. Many marriages, more often than not, end on the rocks due to absence of children. This is because it is the notion of many, who go into marriage, to have children, so that the children could inherit their property, take care of them when they are in their old age or at times boast about their potency of their manhood and fertility of the womb. It is also the dream of every woman to have children, and take pride in it. Many people at certain times of their lives lose hope of their accumulating property, since they find it pointless as there would be no one to inherit them.

However, though the presence of children in one’s life is seen as a blessing, some people do not see it that way. The existence of children in the lives of some people, to them, is a nuisance and unbearable. Whereas many women crave to have children of their own and take delight in, others despise children to the extent that it becomes a sort of allergy to them.

Who are Street Children?

It is interesting to hear children saying what future professions they would like to be in. They often have the hope of becoming great people in the future, but some dreams are shattered along the way. Every now and then, children become victims of circumstance, a situation they have no idea of. Parents at certain point in time make certain unfair decisions, which give the child no other choice, than to end up on the streets, hence them becoming street children.

A child is referred to as a street child, when he or she lives on the street, and as well depend solely on life on the streets for most of his or her livelihood. Children in this state are not under the care of their parents or any adult, and are not under any form of control, so do not often get to live with their families during a lifetime. They are more often denied the opportunity of living with their families, and thereby do not have any idea of how family life feels like. They habitually live life the hard way, so do not get the needs of life as easily as other children do.

Despite the fact that they are usually aged between 10 and 15 years, they are generally engaged in adult activities, in order to fend for themselves, and also live in uncompleted and abandoned buildings, parks, containers, pavements, kiosks or on the street itself.

Whereas, some of these street children do not seem to have any idea as to which family roots they are connected to, some of these children know their families. They beg for alms or engage in street selling. Majority, in the end, go to their various homes and give their earnings to their parents or guardians for the up-keeping of the home. Some children, owing to extreme poverty in the home, prefer to stay on the streets permanently to fend for themselves.

Causes of Street Children "There is no smoke without fire" goes an old adage. Every event that occurs has a root from which it is generated. Street children come into existence as a result of certain decisions taken by the parents of the children.

Street children at certain times face the harsh realities of life due to natural occurrences. It must be put in mind that street children, do not only come into this life as a result of a mistakes committed by their parents, but sometimes due to the death of either parent. Maternal mortality can also be a cause of children living on the streets. Whenever maternal mortality occurs, the child becomes an orphan and when enough care is not taken, ends up on the streets, since he/she has no one to call mum or dad. Also in the case of maternal mortality, the child sometimes ends up living with a step-parent, which usually results in their being maltreated, by both the step-parent and siblings. In some cases female children are even defiled by their step-siblings/parent.

In some homes parents have no idea that the exhibition of bad manners and behaviours affect the child’s nature negatively. During certain periods in the home, the frequent occurrence of certain unpleasant situations make the child reach a point at which he or she feels enough is enough. Whenever the parent, especially the father, is always under the influence of alcohol leading to brutalization of the woman, the child becomes traumatized and eventually is forced to leave the home. This lands the child on the streets, if he or she does not have anyone to turn to.

At certain times, children decide to leave home because of poverty, starvation and unemployment. In the developing and under-developed countries, where the standard of living is virtually low, the crises of poverty and starvation are very persistent. Whenever the situation gets unbearable, children decide to go to the streets to fend for themselves, which might lead to them not going back home again.

Apart from the above named causes, divorce and separation in marriages, are also reasons for the presence of street children. At certain point in marriage, when couples refuse to tolerate each other, which eventually ends in divorce, the children are those who feel the effects most. During divorce some couples refuse to accept the responsibility of their children, especially when they both married to different people, due to the new partner not agreeing to take care of the children, resulting in them becoming homeless, and leaving to struggle on the streets.

On a more serious note, some parents deliberately abandon their children, in order to go on in life and accomplish a personal ambition of theirs. Most parents in their quest to make it in life do not see their children as part of their future so do not find it a problem abandoning them. When children are left without any trace of their parents’ whereabouts, they land on the street searching for greener pastures.

Consequences of street children It is often believed that the environment in which one finds him or herself, has a great impact the person. Children on the streets, due to the nature of activities that go on, are exposed to a lot of dangers, which affects them physically and mentally. Most times girls, who are left on the streets, become victims of defilement and rape. Owing to the fact that they have nobody to protect them, the older ones, especially the males, take advantage of their physical weakness and harass them sexually. Females, who have been sexually abused, often turn to prostitution, since they do not see anything special about their bodies anymore. AIDS is also rising at an alarming rate among street children, due some of these ordeals they go through.

At times people take advantage of their innocence and naivety, and introduce them to drugs. Some of them are forced to take dangerous drugs like cocaine, and also manipulate them into swallowing some of these drugs for trafficking. Most of these children end up becoming addicts, unable to free themselves till they die.

Some of these children sometimes end up becoming armed robbers, leading to them becoming a danger and nuisance to society.

The health condition of street children is generally poor. Many suffer from chronic diseases like TB, leprosy, typhoid, malaria, jaundice and liver/kidney disorders. Children in the early stages of life are prone to a lot of diseases, which sometimes lead to an untimely death. The street child, who has nobody to direct him as to what to do and where to go, does not have the opportunity to be immunized against
childhood killer diseases.

Whenever children are not taken care of and not taught the values of life, they end up not having enough confidence in themselves. Timidity, fear and distrust for their fellow man sets into their hearts, since they have nobody to trust and end up having a very low self esteem.

Conclusion Children are a gift from God and the future leaders of the country so must be taken care of properly. It must also be put into consideration that their being taken care of at the tender stage is very important, since they are too fragile to take care of themselves and have nobody to protect them.

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