Ghana: Porters, Street Kids Registered for NHIS

Ghana: Porters, Street Kids Registered for NHIS
Ghanaian Chronicle (Accra)

9 June 2008
Posted to the web 9 June 2008

Ernest Best Anane

THE SUBIN Sub-Metro Mutual Health Insurance, in collaboration with the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (KMA), has moved to register porters and street-children in the metropolis, to enable the less-privileged in the area access healthcare, under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

The programme resulted from the realization that most of the porters were located in the Subin area.

Launching the mass registration, Ms Esther Odoom, Scheme Manager, noted that most of the porters were dying of malaria, and other common diseases, because they cannot afford medical costs.

About 2,000 porters and street-kids were registered at the launch of the exercise, with 800 of them getting it virtually for free, while about 1,200 would pay the premium of GH¢7.2, with the scheme footing the other component of a GH¢4 processing fee for each of them.

Ms Patricia Appiagyei, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the KMA, commended the Subin Sub-Metro for the foresight, in involving porters and street-children in accessing quality healthcare, under the NHIS.

She appealed to traditional leaders, churches and religious groupings, and heads of institutions, to encourage people to register, and reap the benefits of the scheme.


Ghana: Big Opportunity for Street Children

Ghana: Big Opportunity for Street Children
Ghanaian Chronicle (Accra)

15 April 2008
Posted to the web 15 April 2008

Kingdom Sosu

In his bid to equip the youth with sporting skills in the country, Mr Ray Quarcoo, a renowned sports enthusiast, has set up a non-governmental organization, Bridge Foundation, run by a 61-year-old Robert Bevan, a retired British civil servant.

Moved by the request of the then Ministry of Youth and Sports (now Ministry of Education, Science and Sports) in 2002, when the late Mr Edward Osei Kwaku was the sector Minister, Mr Quarcoo, the President of Bridge Foundation started the construction of a multi purpose sports facility at Roman Ridge in Accra.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the youth centre which houses a big sports hall, training centre and a three-bed room accommodation for Coaches and trainers, on a plot of land provided in 2003 by the Ghana Railways Corporation in Accra, and inaugurated in 2003 . Mr Quarcoo, in an interview revealed that the Foundation seeks among other things to reduce the street children menace confronting the country by helping them fully develop their potential and also keep them from other social vices.

The President stated that "We will also facilitate refresher courses for our sports administrators and Coaches, as well as clinics for schools to improve sports." He pointed out that the NGO will on its own equip the centre with modern facility and a scholarship scheme to the benefit of deserving youth who have excelled in their various fields of endeavour and also arrange for overseas training and sponsorship for national teams preparing for international competitions.

"Already, we are in serious talks with a British-based company, OPEN CAST, in the United Kingdom who have expressed their interest to come on board to make this project a huge success," Mr Quarcoo said. According to the president, OPEN CAST are on the verge of raising funds through fund raising campaigns towards the building of a three JSS classroom block at Kokrobite, in Ghana. Through his efforts, great boxers such as Ike Quartey, the Clottey brothers, Alfred Kotey, Osumanu Yahaya among others has gained prominence.

Mr Quarcoo emphasized that the training centre is opened to children between the ages of 10-20 and with talents in sports, especially boxing and table tennis in the Accra metropolis. He is therefore appealing to individuals and corporate bodies to throw their weight behind other sports Foundations in their quest to salvage the street children menace. Already, the Foundation has started a computer training exercise for intelligent but needy children in the Roman Ridge Area and has had two graduation ceremonies already. And for some time now, Child Care Foundation, an NGO based at Malam, in Accra, visits the Bridge Foundation on Saturdays for computer training lessons under the tutelage of Nicholas Manu, a graduate volunteer of the organization. At the early stages of the constructional works, the late sports Minister visited the site and congratulated Mr Quarcoo for offering hope to the needy in society.

200 street children to reunite with families

200 street children to reunite with families
Last Updated: Friday, 4 April 2008, 15:55 GMT

Myjoyonline Ghana News Photos | Children fishing
Children fishing

The Tema Metropolitan Social Welfare Department would by the end of this year reunite 200 street children in the metropolis with their families.

The 200 children were identified last year by a joint team of social welfare officials and members of the Tema Metropolitan Assembly (TMA) Women and Children Sub Committee.

Mr George De Graft Assan, Tema Metropolitan Social Welfare Officer who disclosed this to Ghana News Agency (GNA) said the children were identified from Tema Manhean and the fishing harbour.

Mr. Assan stated that the programme would start with the fishing areas and later expanded to cover other areas of the metropolis such as Communities One and Two.

He added that the project which was supposed to take off last year was shifted to this year due to late budgeting.

The Social Welfare Officer however stated that preparations were underway by his outfit to submit the budget to the TMA for approval for the take off.

Touching on the activities of the 200 children, he said some of them serve as porters while others join the canoe fishermen to fish for a fee at the expense of their education.

Mr Assan noted that the children lied to the team that they were either for the morning or afternoon shift when asked why they were not in school.

He further said the team gathered that the parents and caretakers of the children were either dead or unemployed adding that counselling and vocational training would be given to the jobless parents.

Source: GNA

Ghana: Woes of the Street Child

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

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.

Stanbic donates to street children on Valentine Day

Stanbic donates to street children on Valentine Day
Posted on: 15-Feb-2008     Previous Page
Stanbic Bank on Thursday presented a cheaque of GH 5,000 cedis and other household items to the Street Girls Aid, a non-governmental organization set up to assist girls who live and work on the streets, as part of this year’s Valentine/Chocolate Day celebrations.

A sixty-member staff of the bank cleaned and painted the premises of the Street Girls Aid’s Childhood Care and Development Centre at Kantamanto and entertained the children with music as well as food, drinks and chocolates.

Presenting the cheaque, Mr Mawuku K. Afadzinu, Head, Marketing and Public Affairs noted that the children represented society’s hope for the future and needed to be cared for.
Mr. Afadzinu said the bank was determined to find ways of helping the vulnerable to become beacons of success.

He said the bank has set aside a week dubbed: "Stanbic Cares Week" that would enable members of staff to spend quality time with the kids and bring smiles to their faces.

Mr. Afadzinu urged the members of the society to believe in the children and strive to make a difference in their lives.

"When the vulnerable are given care and support, the security of all citizens, are protected," he said.

Mr Afadzinu said the bank was going to roll out programmes and reach out to the public with financial support.

Mr Samuel Boamah, a Social Worker, Street Girls Aid also known as S.Aid, said the S.Aid was established after the Department of Social Work, University of Ghana conducted research in 1991 and found out that there were 4,000 kids on the streets of Accra.

He said though his outfit was now taking care of 560 kids in four of Childhood Development centres at Maamobi, Kinbu and Kantamanto, there was the need for other organisations to lend a helping hand in that direction.

According to him, his organization was also taking care of the nutritional needs of the children by offering them balanced diet.

He commended Street Child Africa, United Kingdom based NGO and United Way Ghana for providing support to girls and their babies to achieve goals in life.

Source: GNA

To Ghana, with love

To Ghana, with love

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 – 12:05 AM 
Children in the slum area of Accra swarm around Felicia Annan. VCU students fondly call her "the Mother Teresa of Ghana." Photo By: DOUG BUERLEIN


ACCRA, GHANA In her part-time job as a pool lifeguard, Virginia Commonwealth University senior Elizabeth Reeder is able to quickly help people in need.

But her training didn’t prepare her for what she experienced two days after the New Year’s holiday while visiting an impoverished area of Accra, Ghana, in West Africa.

There, Reeder and other students from VCU’s School of Social Work met Felicia, a 10-year-old girl who appeared to be lifeless in the tiny, one-room dwelling she shared with her mother and eight siblings.

Reeder hoisted the girl on her back in a sling and, with the help of other students, carried her to a hospital on a Tro Tro, one of the many recycled passenger vans that serve as public transportation. The students, who pitched in money to pay for Felicia’s treatment, waited anxiously for reports about the youngster. They knew that she had had a stroke last year and had been hospitalized for three months.

They learned Felicia had contracted malaria, a blood disease transmitted to humans by mosquitoes and one of the leading causes of death in Africa. Although Reeder is relieved that Felicia survived, she still is shaken by the child’s suffering.

"To carry her on my back, feel her warm temperature and heartbeat and hear her crying . . . it brought things home," said Reeder, 22. "It really humbled me."

. . .

Reeder’s words reflect those of the 18 VCU students who spent their winter break volunteering with Sovereign Global Mission, a nongovernmental organization with which the VCU School of Social Work has established a partnership. The mission, which has been run by Ghanaians Eric and Felicia Annan since 1992, assists orphaned, abandoned, sick or abused street children in Accra’s Cocoa Marketing Board region.

The mission also conducts outreach and education in rural communities; provides information, education and training on HIV/AIDS prevention; offers job training through the Homeless Street Girls Project; and helps provide medical assistance to street children, men and women.

The trash-infested CMB area in Accra is occupied by street children — some estimates place the number as high as 20,000 — who must live by their instincts. Children as young as 7 or 8 take care of younger siblings who can barely walk. Girls ages 12 to 16 who have fled Ghana’s northern region in search of a better life become "porters" or sell items to passengers at nearby train and bus stations. Other girls resort to prostitution.

When the Annans are unable to stop young girls from selling their bodies, they raise funds to send them back home. A 14-year-old girl with ebony, model-like features was put on a bus home during the VCU students’ visit.

Witnessing the patience and joy she exudes as she easily walks among the street children dispensing toothbrushes and other personal items, the VCU students fondly call Felicia Annan "the Mother Teresa of Ghana."

Eric Annan, 41, said he and his wife are "grateful for the students’ presence. . . . Every year, they come to help support our programs and provide resources such as shoes and clothing."

Randi Buerlein, assistant director of field instruction for VCU’s School of Social Work, met the Annans while visiting Ghana five years ago. She was searching for an organization with which VCU could form a short-term partnership. After learning about Felicia Annan’s weekly feeding and outreach program, Buerlein became an SGM volunteer.

"I sometimes have a sense of anger; it seems so unfair that so many children we meet are going to be sick or not survive," Buerlein told the social work students one night during the group’s recent trip. "Anger’s not helpful, but it can be motivating."

. . .

This trip marked the fourth time Buerlein has traveled to Ghana with VCU student groups. The trips are open to any VCU student, alumni or friends of the university, with each participant responsible for paying his or her expenses.

One group included Kelly McCall, 25, who after visiting Ghana in January 2005, returned eight months later. She stayed six months, conducting HIV/AIDS training, teaching rural children and "living like a Ghanaian."

McCall, who teaches job-seeking skills to clients at Richmond’s Daily Planet, said, "I never wanted to go home.

"I used to have social anxiety, but teaching and working with others helped eliminate that."

She also lost 30 pounds with all the walking and physical activities that living and working in Ghana require.

McCall helped Buerlein lead the group this time. She cautioned the students to "see Ghana for what it is by focusing on its strengths and methods of survival."

. . .

In 2006, Chris Burnside, former assistant dean of student affairs in VCU’s School of the Arts, met the Annans on another student trip. Struck by the level of poverty and the students’ work, he created a class. In "Making a Difference," students created a benefit program "FOR AFRICA," to raise funds for the nonprofit SGM.

Burnside was co-director of the event last November that helped raise $38,000 for a child-development center being built by SGM.

The center is part of a three-pronged approach for combating the poverty that has haunted Ghana in the 50 years since it obtained independence from British rule.

One part of the VCU-Annan project involves working with street children, providing food, basic health care and literacy education. The second phase sponsors children to attend school for one year. The third phase involves building the child development center in Adoteiman, a village outside Accra.

The total cost for the project is $60,000, and a library and dormitory are expected to be completed in April. A Richmond-based foundation account established through Peacework, a nonprofit organization in Blacksburg, will accept donations that will help sustain the school through annual donations, Buerlein said.

. . .

The students helped dig the center’s foundation in Adoteiman, hauling cinder-block-sized bricks amid sweltering temperatures. Their evenings were spent in a hotel with no hot water, bad lighting and lots of lizards.

Yet there were few complaints.

"It’s one thing to read about global poverty and having HIV and AIDS," Buerlein said, "but it broadens their perspective by being there and seeing" such challenges. "They all come back wanting to do more."

Cecelia Rich, a first-year graduate student in social work, wanted to help SGM but was also eager to visit the country’s slave castles or forts, which housed up to 10,000 African slaves a year during the 250-year slave trade.

The &q
uot;40-something" Rich, who has worked in social work and criminal justice for nearly 20 years, wants to start her own community-based social work program. A VCU master’s degree will help, and so will the time spent in Ghana, she said.

Rich was pleased to find unity, community, resilience and tenacity among the Ghanaians.

Their situations are bad, but their nature was "we’re coping with it," she said. "To be able to see how they can make a quick income by selling something off the Earth, or being resourceful while recycling . . . that’s ingenious."
Bonnie Newman Davis, a former editor and reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, is an associate professor of journalism at Virginia Commonwealth University. She traveled to Accra, Ghana, with the VCU students as part of the National Association of Black Journalists’ Ethel Payne Fellowship.

Doug Buerlein is a professional photographer who lives in Ashland.

Oguaahene expresses concern over street children in Cape Coast

Oguaahene expresses concern over street children in Cape Coast
Posted on: 16-Jul-2007     
Osabarima Kwesi Atta II, the Paramount Chief of Oguaa Traditional area has expressed concern over the number of street children in Cape Coast and appealed to churches in the area to "stand-up" and evolve strategies that would curb the phenomenon.

He said the time had come for parents to be more responsible and to refrain from pushing their children onto the streets to face challenges that are detrimental to their development.

Osabarima Kwesi Atta said this over the weekend when he addressed the congregation of the Pedu/Abura Ebenezer Presbyterian Church at Abura, a suburb of Cape Coast, to climax the 10th anniversary of the church.

He said it was disheartening the way some parents had little or no time for their children.

"It is not enough for parents to just dump money on their children to fend for themselves without considering what they actually need. Let us give our children parental love and have time for their physical and spiritual growth."

He said lack of parental care and attention had been the major cause of the increased moral decadence, streetism and child delinquency.

Osabarima Kwesi Atta commended the Pedu Ebenezer Presbyterian Church for what it has achieved over the past 10 years and urged the members to remain committed to its growth and development.

In a sermon Reverend William Appiah, the Western Presbytery Chairman, called on Ghanaians to appreciate the peace the nation was enjoying and continue to give thanks and praise to God, adding "without him the nation would have found itself in crisis".

He said the nation might be going through some difficulties such as loading shedding and other minor problems but it was still far better than other countries that continue to recognize Ghana as "heaven".

Reverend Dr Eric Anum, the resident pastor, said the church started with 35 members in 1997 and now has more than 300.

Seventy children were graduated from Sunday school to Junior Youth and 21 from Junior Youth to Young People’s Guild.

Ghana: Northern, Upper East & West Are the Suppliers of Street Kids in Kumasi

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.

GHANA: What hope for thousands of street children?

GHANA: What hope for thousands of street children?

Photo: IRIN
Some 50,000 children are believed to be living rough in Ghana

ACCRA, 6 March 2007 (IRIN) – Thirteen-year-old Joshua Anderson is confident, even cocky, about his life on the streets of Ghana’s largest city, Accra. But he struggles to hold back tears when asked why he left his family in the countryside nearly one year ago.

His mother wouldn’t let him keep going to school, he said. Instead, he was forced to go to work with her at the market.

So one night he quietly left. He went to Accra where he hoped he would find someone to support his education.

Instead of school, Anderson had to work. He lugs boxes and cases, often taller than he is, in one of the city’s bus stations. In exchange he gets a handful of coins.

At night, he sleeps on a cardboard mat in front of a meat shop.

Anderson’s best friends are also 13 years old. They stick together for protection, but sometimes it’s not enough.

"Sometimes the grown-up boys beat us, even take our money and that sort of thing," he said. He also risks being raped and sexually abused.

Ghana’s Department of Social Welfare and local NGOs believe there are 21,000 children living and working on Accra’s streets without a parent to protect them.

Nationwide there could be as many as 50,000, the department said, with many of them in Ghana’s second city, Kumasi.

"There are enormous groups of children on the streets," said Jos van Dinther, director of Catholic Action for Street Children (CAS), an NGO based in Accra. "This is a very bad sign for the country."

Street culture

Place of birth, ethnic group and religion do not appear to be important in deciding who ends up on the streets as family stability and poverty.

More than 80 percent of under-sixteen’s working the streets in Ghana left home because of family problems, such as neglect or parents’ separation, according to CAS surveys.

Other causes cited by CAS are the collapse of rural livelihoods as traditional industries like fishing go into decline, lack of jobs, poor schools outside the cities, and forced marriage.

The breakdown of traditional African family structures, wherein it used to be normal for children to be sent to cities to live with distant relatives, is another factor that has contributed to growing numbers of street children throughout West Africa.

But social workers are quick to add that ultimately parents have the responsibility to care for their children and keep them off the streets. They say Ghana’s street children symbolise a failure on the part of the country’s parents.

"There are many nice slogans – rights of the child, right to education," said van Dinther. "But these are just ignored. They have no rights."

Once on the streets, children receive no formal education, are at increased risk of illness, have poor diets and hygiene, and must struggle to earn money for food. Many of them experience theft and violence, and girls are frequently raped.

Overworked, underfunded

The man tasked with dealing with this problem, Stephen Adongo, deputy director at Ghana’s Department of Social Welfare, is sanguine about the government’s chances of curbing the problem.

He said the department’s social workers have too much work and too little resources to adequately respond to the needs of street children, much less to stop the problem from continuing.

He said his Child Rights Protection Division, which is one of three in the department, has a nationwide operating budget of about US$1,700 for the first quarter of 2007, which parses down to $170 for each of the country’s ten regions.

"We are forced to do sedentary social work," he said. "You sit in your chair and wait for people to come."

Adongo said Ghana’s policymakers who control the government’s purse strings do not appreciate the problems of street children and have not made the issue a priority.

“It’s an issue that is far away and doesn’t touch them,” he said.

"If we had more people and more resources, we could do preventive social work. With more funding, the department could intervene before the children land on city streets,” he argued.

The department does support periodic public sensitisation campaigns and workshops for street children on topics such as health and hygiene. But any sustained efforts in Ghana for now, he said, is coming from NGOs.

Hitting the streets

For the meantime it is NGO’s like CAS that send out field workers to comb the streets of Accra every day.

They know where the street children work and sleep, earn their trust and then invite them to the organisation’s day care centre, or House of Refuge.

The refuge caters to about 80 street children per day. It is the nearest thing to a home for them, where they can bathe, wash their clothes, rest, and play games.

"I come to learn and for the library," said Nancy Mensah, 15, who has been in Accra for less than a month and was told about the refuge by a friend. She said she left her family because as the seventh child she was neglected.

At the refuge, the children participate in formal class work, such as literacy and mathematics, and in workshops like weaving and pottery. There is also a modest library and computer centre.

Many of the children just use the place as a safe, clean place to rest.

But those children who show they are serious about leaving the streets are sponsored to go to CAS’s Hopeland Training Centre.

At this separate facility outside Accra, the children get more one-on-one attention and do intensive class work that is intended to prepare them for entry into vocational school or formal education.

Once their training is finished, graduates are given a modest amount of money to start a business or assisted in job placement. About 1,500 children have been freed from the streets through the process.

But for every child assisted by CAS or other NGO like it in Ghana, many more go unassisted.

"The urgent action should come from politicians, from people in authority," said CAS’s van Dinther. "We want to know where is the button we can push so something changes."

Ghana Faced With Rising Numbers of Street Kids Ghana: Ghana Faced With Rising Numbers of Street Kids

Public Agenda (Accra) October 9, 2006 Posted to the web October 9, 2006 Irene Elorm Hatsu Accra

Children have been migrating from the rural areas to the cities for decades, but since the early 1990s, their numbers have been growing rapidly, and experts worry that Ghana’s population of street children will explode in the coming years.

According to UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, there are currently 30,000 children living on the streets of Ghana’s cities and towns. In Accra alone, there are 20,000, according to estimates by CAS, Catholic Action for Street Children, the largest NGO dealing with street children in the country.

Most street children in Ghana are between the ages of 10 and 18, though there are many who are far younger. Most have been on the streets for several months or years. They leave their villages in search of money to marry or go back to school, to escape the hopelessness and poverty of many rural areas, or to build a better future for themselves.

In the City of Accra many street children find their home on the streets. While several have come from the rural areas of Ghanaand surrounding countries, others have been born in the streets. The ratio of boys: girls is 50% each. These street children are all below the ageof 18 years and are not supported by anyone.The actual number is not known and it is also not important to know because every child who lives in the street should not be there.

In addition to the Street Children, many urban poor children can be found in the streets. These are children who find themselves in an urban area and have some kind of supportive home to go to, but they are on the street because of the lack of the basic necessities of life.

It is in line with this that the Director for Catholic Action for Street Children Mr. Jos Van Dinthir, has called on the government to fight the problem of street children by putting in place strategic plans and actions to help address the problem.

He appealed to government to formulate policies that seek the development and welfare of children especially street children. "The problem of street children has come to stay; government should recognize the real problem, study the problem and be serious in providing lasting solutions to the problem."

Speaking in an interview with the Public Agenda, he observed that every child has the right to sport and play no matter where the child lives. He said these activities make learning interesting and less stressful.

He disclosed that the Catholic Action for Children (CAC) has chosen to work mainly for the street children but it also supports street mothers who have their childrenin the streets.

In furtherance of this, CAC has provided a training center, where these street children are trained in employable skills. He said on the average between 20 and 40 children attend classes daily, different subjects, with varying levels of difficulty are taught, from reading and writing to mathematics, English and social skills. Children also learn drama and music at Hopeland Training Centre.

"Teaching at CAS is done by staffs that are not trained as teachers. The most important approach is first to have a good relationship with the child and teach them the basic necessities of life", he said.

The Chief Executive Officer of Right to Play, Johann Olav Koss said it is very important to ensure that street children, like other children are provided with the right environment to learn and play because it the right of every child to get education.

"Every child should have the same opportunity emotionally, physiologically and mentally in order to develop well", he told journalists on his visit to Accra. He said sports gives a healthy life style especially to growing children and also enables them set effective goals and work hard to achieve them.

"When I see children playing, happy and laughing, I get so fulfilled and get encouragement to work harder to make the world a better place for children". He said plans are under way to extend the Right To Play programmes to the north and other regions.

He further disclosed that children with disabilities have not been left out of the programmes, adding that specialized modules have been designed to enable such children take part in all Right To Play programmes.

Mr. Koss also said the Right To Play will be collaborating with the Ministry for Education, Sports and Science and also with the Football Association to be able to reach more children. 

Mr. Johann Olav Koss is one of the greatest winter athletes of all time. The four times Olympic Gold Medalist in speed skating made world headlines when he won three Gold Medals at the 1994 Lillehammer Games in the 1,500, 5,000 and 10, 000 meter events.

Right to Play is a registered international NGO in Ghana and has been implementing the Sport Health program since November 2001. The program started with Right to Play’s participation in the 5 in 1 immunization festival.

Right to Play Ghana collaborates with a number of government departments, international, national and local organisations to promote the use of sport as a tool for development thus creating positive change within the community.