According to the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), with reference to figures from the component of the Labour Force Survey undertaken as part of the sixth round Ghana Living Standards Survey (GLSS, 2013/2014), there are more than one million eight-hundred child labourers in Ghana.
This constitutes over 20% of our children; meaning one out of every five children you meet is a child labour. what this means in terms of Constitutional breach is that the fundamental human rights of almost two million children in Ghana is being violated and no one seems to care enough to address this adequately.
Is it acceptable?
According to the statistics, the majority of child labourers (37.2%) are 8-11 years, followed by 12-14 years (29.8%) before the 15-17 year olds. This means that the younger and more vulnerable child are exploited most. It also means that most child labourers are below 14 years and should be in school under the Free Compulsory Basic Educaion (FCUBE) policy.
For those of them in school, the data implies that they are combining school and child labour. is it a wonder then that our children, especially those in deprived communities perform so poorly in the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE).
What crime have these children committed to be consigned to such a fate?
Is this acceptable? The statistics further indicate that Ashanti, Brong-Ahafo,Eastern, Volta and Northern regions, in that order, have the highest incidence of child labour. Overall, 52.7% of child labourers are boys and 47.3 % are girls.
Causes and Consequences
The causes of child labour may be categorized variously: economic, social-cultural and inadequate educational and social service system.
Many families in Ghana are poor. In manay households, unemployment or underemployment and insufficient incomes have forced children to engage in child labour to support family income and in some case their own survival. As child labour prevails in such households, an inter-generational cycle of poverty is perpetuated.
But what causes poverty? Unemployment or underemployment is cause by lack of employable skills and knowledge resulting from poor quality of both the supply and demand of education. Another cause of child labour is rural-urban migration of young people for economic reasons.
The phenomenon of kayaye is a sordid manifestation of this. Poor labour market is another economic cause of child labour.
Due to weak enforcement of labour laws and regulations, employers prefer to exploit children rather than hire adults. Many of these children are unpaid or underpaid and have no collective bargaining rights.
Because of their difficult economic circumstance, these children accept any offer for their labour. Thus, the harsh economic realities increases the supply of children’s labour as well as the demand of it by scrupulous employers.
The unregulated labour market seems to have been entrenched and acceptably nick-named “the informal sector”. Today more than 80% of Ghana’s economy is in the informal sector. Is this acceptable?
There is a pervasive disrespect for the rights of children. Both at the family and State levels, the needs of children are the first to be sacrificed in the face of resource challenges.
Is there any lawyer who would stand up and petition the Supreme Court to compel the State to practically guarantee the constitutional rights of children to be protected from all child labour?
Breakdown of extended family care, atomization of local communities, single-parenting, negative cultural and traditional practices, gender discrimination, poor family management and child training are other social cultural causes of child labour.
Inadequate Access to Education
In many rural communities were child labour is endemic, there are no good schools. Where there is a form of school. The building are death traps. There are virtually no teachers, no teaching and learning materials and no motivation for parents to take their children to school.
Today’s youth unemployment is a result of yesterday’s child labour. the continuum between child labour, youth unemployment and adult poverty will prevail until it grinds our national economy to a halt if we refuse to deal effectively with it now.
Accommodating child labour is the reason for the accommodated economic mediocrity we suffer as a nation. Our children are dying under the collapse of galamsey pits and under the Volta Lake.
Our girls are abused in homes and in the streets and markets. Deprivation, exploitation abuse, threat and harm are visited upon thousands of children every day. Why?
Why are we allowing this? Our international image is poor because of child labour. Our economy is crippled because of child labour.
Our communities are deprived, families impoverished and children left with little hope of a future they can be proud of.
Why are we allowing this? The causes and consequences of child labour are not unsurmountable. They can be addressed in a manner that is both effective and sustainable.
Over the past 15 years, a number of interventions have been implemented by various partners including mandated government ministries, departments and agencies, Workers’ organization, employers association, NGOs and other civil society groups including the media.
There remains much work to be done but some encouraging progress has been made in addressing the challenge systemically and comprehensively so that the results are sustainable and catalyzing to other areas of national social and economic development.
In the year 2000, not many people heard or knew about child labour. Today, public education on child labour is relatively high as a result of consistent awareness raising activities at all levels in both rural and urban communities.
Sebsitisationprogrammes have been conducted in more than 200 local communities in various districts across the country.
Through these educational activities, local people now appreciate the concept of child labour and are able to distinguish it from light work which is acceptable for children, they also understand the negative consequences of child labour to the health education and development of the child.
A key aspect of the awareness raising at the community level is the targeting of traditional rulers. Given the strong influence of chiefs, queen mothers and other traditional leaders in local communities, sensitizing them on child labour has ripple effects of the broader community.
The effect of longstanding detrimental socio-cultural norms and practices on children make it such that child labour us seen as a normal thing acceptable by our culture. This perception is minimized as informed traditional leaders who have been well sensitized lead the child labour campaign in their respective communities. Traditional leaders in many areas have also worked with the communities to institute community regulations which proscribe child labour and confer sanctions on perpetuators with full community support.
Awareness raising translates into attitudinal change through social mobilization. As people become well informed the move to take action. In many communities Community Child Protection Committees (CCPCs) have been established, this is made of key actors such as assembly persons or unit committee members, teachers, women leaders, child representatives and other opinion shapers in the community. They undertake community surveillance to monitor areas where children may be working. The CCPCs form a core component of the Ghana Child Labour Monitoring System (GCLMS) being deployed in many areas across the country. CCPCs also undertake informal school inspections and work with teachers in local community schools to enhance school attendance and performance. In some areas, especially cocoa growing communities social mobilization has resulted in the development and implementation of Community Action Plans (CAPs). Through the implementation of CAPs local communities have been self-empowered to develp their areas. For example in many communities in and around Asankragua and Suhum, such as Mfranta, CAPs have resulted in the provision of electricity, health post, educational services such as improved infrastructure and increased teaching and learning materials. Teachers are motivated to teach and children attend school regularly with an enthusiasm that reflects in their performance. Consequently, child labour is gradually becoming a thing of the past and families are appreciating the usefulness of education. As part of the campaign, a network of Social Mobilisation Partners against Child Labour (SOMOPAC) formed under the coordination of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) has been formed in the ten regions with over two-hundred journalist trained to inform and educate the public on child labour through their various media platforms, including online and social media stages.
Direct withdrawal of children from child labour and prevention of those at risk
Through interventions implemented by local NGOs and District Assemblies, and funded by development partners like the International LabourOrganisation (ILO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), International Needs-Ghana (IN-G) and World Vision International (WVI) inter alia, many children have been withdrawn from Worst Forms of Child Labour (WFCL). Younger children, usual between five and fifteen years found in child labour are usually removed from the menace and enrolled in school with a full provision of school uniforms, learning materials and in some cases bicycles to ride to school because of the long distances they have to traverse. Older children, etween fifteen and seventeen years are usually enrolled in technical education or Vocational training. In these effort, the Ministries of Employment and Labour Relations, Education, Gender, Children and Social Protection and Local Government and Rural Development have provided growing leadership and coordination to achieve significant results. It is estimated that more than twenty-thousand children have been prevented or withdrawn form Worst Forms of Child Labour as a result of these efforts.
Economic Empowerment and Livelihood Support for Vulnerable Families
Poverty is one of the key causes of child labour. Therefore, supporting parents, guardians, care-takers, families and households with economic goods and services is strategic for a sustainable elimination of child labour. Many child labour projects include livelihood empowerment as a key component. As a result, more than two-thousand families were supported under ILO projects in over fifteen districts. According to a report from the ILO Projects, The economic empowerment services included training income generating ventures such as bee keeping, soap-making, palm oil extraction, pastries and confectionaries, trading, grass cutter rearing and poultry. There were initial and follow up trainings for beneficiaries to start or improve existing businesses, enhance the quality of production, packaging and marketing, as well as business management, basic book-keeping and strengthening cooperatives/groups to make them more viable(including improving their savings habits). Start –up tools were delivered to all 1200 beneficiary families for production. In addition to start up tools, ovens and palm oil processing machines were also provided to beneficiaries into bakery and palm oil processing to enhance technology in production. To promote community-wide approach in the delivery of services, 11 palm oil processing equipment and 7 corn mills have also been provided to 7 communities with arrangements in place to use 50% of the proceeds to support beneficiaries, 25% to support CAPs activities including sponsoring needy children to access higher education and 25% for the management and maintenance of the facility. 40 production centres were also supported with communities contributing internal resources to serve as rallying points and mini-factories for livelihood activities.- To enhance the marketing of beneficiary products, the project collaborated with the District Assemblies to establish 4 marketing outlets as part of efforts to boost sales and promote regular production. The About 1200 beneficiaries across the target districts are in business and producing soap, palm oil, pastries including bread, vegetables, honey, poultry and grass cutter for sale (with some also consumed by the households) while other are in petty trading. 1156 families have received training on the benefits of savings and micro-credit schemes with the same number linked to Microfinance Institutions (MFI) and are saving to enable them access funds to provide the education, health and other needs of their children as well as improve their businesses. The MFIs continue to follow up to sensitise and encourage families to continue to save.918 families have benefited from training on basic book-keeping.976adult beneficiaries have been registered with the NHIS while non-beneficiaries numbering over 100 have also been registered unto the scheme. About 1074 community members comprising beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries have benefited from health screening services with those having conditionsreferred to hospitals for further treatment by experts.About 43groups composed of both direct and indirect beneficiaries have been formed and registered with the Department of Cooperatives with their certificates issued to make them viable for their registration before the end of the Project. The National Functional Literacy Programme has been extended to all 40 target communities with a total of about 1114 community members benefitting. These include both beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries of the project. 40 Local Facilitators were trained by NFED in two separate workshops and the National Functional Literacy Programme extended to all 40 target communities to facilitate the classes. This has contributed to improving the literacy and numeracy skills of adult beneficiaries with replying effects on their businesses and some in the position to support their children in the school work.
Emmanuel Kwame Mensah