Bawjiase Orphanage shut down over human right abuses

Nana Oye Lithur

The Bawjiase Orphanage has been closed down by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection.

The immediate closure follows damning revelations of human rights abuses occurring in that home.

The Minister, Nana Oye Lithur, said the ministry had been working together with investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, and has secured safety for the children at the home.

“We have been made aware of the issue and we have been working with Anas in that regard. So far, we have gone for the children, and they are under our direct care and supervision,” she told the press.

According to the minister, eliminating some of these nefarious activities of these orphanages has been on top of their priority as a ministry.

“Since we began in 2013, we have closed down a lot of these orphanages across the country. The social welfare department investigates, point them out and we take action. Most of these are illegal too, so we bring the owners to book by the law,” she added.

The Countryside Home has, over the years, benefited from the generosity of individuals and organisations, including Prophet T.B. Joshua of the Synagogue Church of All Nations; the Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra, the Most Rev Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle; a former Black Stars player, John Mensah; Becca, a musician, and the Kumasi Metropolitan Chief Executive, Mr Kojo Bonsu.

Key buildings at the orphanage were put up by institutions such as Regimanuel Gray Estates, the World Health Organisation, Balast Nedam Company Limited and Wirbelwind, a German organisation.

Several of the items donated by those individuals and organisations were sold openly, as Auntie Emma turned the orphanage into a retail shop. She sold almost everything, including bags of rice, gallons of cooking oil, cartons of milk, bales of used clothing, shoes and bags, toothpaste and brushes, biscuits, drinks and toiletries.

In an instance, she gave out some of the shoes and bags out for free to a client, claiming they were not new to entice the client to buy more.

The prices of the items were also reduced to encourage the clients to buy more.

In rather horrifying revelations, students of the Countryside Basic School, which is the educational wing of the home, told the story of how girls were made to undergo abortion after they had been impregnated by their male schoolmates.

A son of Aunty Emma’s was accused of impregnating one of the girls, while a cobbler from Bawjiase was said to have gone to the school to sleep with some of the girls and impregnate them, after which the pregnancies were aborted.

One girl was alleged to have undergone three abortions. In one instance, she was said to have aborted the pregnancy with the help of the female teachers who were referred to as ‘mothers’ in the home.

There were also alleged instances of homosexuality involving some male workers and male students of the home.

A teacher at the school confirms that with GHc1, the teenage girls in the school will willingly go to bed with any man.

“‘Orphanage cedi cedi’; that is how those girls are referred to,” the teacher said, creating humour out of the situation.

In some instances, two of the children who were caught having sex received 24 lashes each on the orders of Auntie Emma’s husband, Captain Yeboah (retd), who has turned the home into a jungle by teaching the children to use guns.

Responding to some of the allegations, Auntie Emma said the only girl who got pregnant was a needy child who had been sent home for vacation, but returned to the home pregnant and was sent back to her family.

Healthcare in the home is administered by a senior high school graduate who describes himself as Dr Isaac Nsiebi.

He is mentoring an inmate, ‘Dr Bernard’, to take over the duty of diagnosing, prescribing, dispensing and administering injections in the home as he prepares to further his education.

Commenting on the health care situation in the home, Dr Alex Dodoo, a Director of the WHO collaborating centre, Ghana, said, “It is unacceptable. The orphanage must be shut down.”

The ministry has also set up a three-member committee to investigate the matter.

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