Some children have returned to the streets in Accra, occupying medians and traffic intersections of some busy streets to harass motorists and pedestrians for money.
The places where the children are mostly seen are the Graphic Road, Lapaz, Kasoa Old Barrier traffic lights, University of Professional Studies (UPSA) junction, the Accra Mall, Adjiringano, Shiashie near Emmanuel Eye Clinic, and some ceremonial streets.
In the past, some of the children assisted adult beggars by holding their hands and pushing those in wheelchairs.
However, this time around, the children are at the forefront of this begging business, exposing themselves to all forms of danger.
But the Director of the Department of Social Welfare, Mr Daniel Nonah, in an interview, said the department together with other agencies was working at ensuring that the children were taken off the streets for a better future.
He said between January and February this year, a total of 19 children who were picked from various streets in the capital had been taken to the Social Welfare Vocational Training Centre at Somanya in the Eastern Region for skills development and training under a project dubbed: “Operation get off the street for better life”.
The operation, which was in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, in 2018 took a total of 71 child beggars off the streets of Accra.
Out of the number, 17 were re-integrated with their families, while 54 were placed in various shelters in Accra.
As of October 2019, data on 2,374 street children had been collected from 45 hot spots in Accra.
Out of the number, 167 received support in diverse ways.
However, for some time now the median in front of Toyota Ghana Limited on the Graphic Road has been occupied by some squatters, who are not there alone but with children.
When the Daily Graphic team visited the spot to find out what they were doing, it came out that the squatters, mostly women, were using their children to beg for alms.
The children, some as young as two years old, were being used to solicit for alms by the parents on the streets, amid intense vehicular traffic, while they (the parents) relaxed under trees.
It was also observed that the children crossed the road immediately there was a traffic jam without recourse to the movement of vehicles.
At Lapaz, some of the children were seen on the median in front of Ecobank, where they approached pedestrians for money.
Though where they stood was close to the traffic light, it was observed that their targets were not only motorists but also the pedestrians.
They quickly approached passersby and sometimes touched them and stretched their hands for money or used their hands to touch their mouth to indicate that they were hungry and wanted food.
Kasoa Old Barrier
The story was not different at the Kasoa Old Barrier traffic light where the children, who usually stood on the median, ran quickly to motorists for money as soon as there was vehicular traffic.
Most of the children seen at the UPSA Junction last week were with their mothers, but they (children) were rather running to motorists to beg for money, while their mothers sat unconcerned.
When this reporter approached one of the mothers who had erected a big umbrella right in the bushy median with about five children who were wearing the same replica jersey of one of the European teams, communicating with her was difficult. This was because she seemed not to understand Twi or English.
When asked whether she was a Ghanaian, the response was, ‘‘Nigerian, Nigerian’’. She just used the right hand to touch her mouth several times to send a signal that she needed money for food.
A taxi driver at the junction, who wants to remain anonymous, disclosed that they used to come there in their numbers to harass motorists but on that day, they were not many.
Accra Mall A visit to the Accra Mall revealed that most of the children there were from neighbouring West African countries. Some of them were seen at the entrance of the car park and at the overhead bridge on the main road, begging for alms.
The children, apart from being denied their right to education, also risk being knocked down by a vehicle.
The Assistant Supervisor at Toyato Ghana, Mr Charles Appiah, who spoke to the Daily Graphic, said in December last year, a car coming from the State Transport Company (STC) direction towards Toyota almost lost control and sensing danger, the children and adult pedestrians took to their heels and fell into the gutter in front of the company.
‘‘The security men here had to help them out from the gutter and some of the children had bruises all over their body,’’ he stated.
A service advisor and driver at Toyota Ghana, Mr Frederick Etse Kpehor, also said he personally called the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) office in November last year to report to the AMA boss about the danger the children were exposed to but was told the AMA boss had gone out.
He said about two weeks ago, an oncoming vehicle, in order to avoid hitting one of the children, hit another car in front of it.
“The presence of these children is very dangerous, they are not safe at all.
I think it is high time the AMA reacted fast to move these squatters from this median to avoid imminent disaster. These children should be in the classroom learning and not in the streets begging for money,” he said.
As enshrined in the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, it is the right of every child to be in school and have equitable access to quality teaching and learning.
Again, the Inclusive Education Policy also defines the strategic path of the government for the education of all children with special educational needs.
This policy also builds upon sections in the Constitution, the National Development Agenda, the Education Strategic Plan and International Commitments to achieve national as well as international goals for creating an environment for addressing the needs of Ghanaians.
In August 2017, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, launched the ‘Operation get off the street now, for a better life’ project with the aim of eradicating the street children phenomenon in the country.
The project was implemented by the Children’s Department in collaboration with Social Welfare, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, faith-based organisations, civil society organisations, traditional rulers and other stakeholders.
It sought to include the identification and delivery of the core set of basic services that have the potential of securing the re-integration of persons on the street into mainstream society and strengthening of policies that address the causes of streetism.
The Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the AMA, Mr Gilbert Ankrah, explained that the assembly was collaborating with OAfrica, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that empowers children, and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), to identify children on the streets and provide the necessary help to them.
He said they had so far taken data of the children after which they realised about 70 per cent of their families were disabled.
“We have, therefore, added their families to Persons with Disability (PWDs) that receive working tools to better their lives.
This has reduced the number of children on the streets,” he said.
Similarly, the PRO of the Korley Klottey Municipal Assembly, Mr Nii Ofori Quaye, said they were compiling data of such children together with their parents to enable them to provide them with what they needed.