Approximately 75 percent of children in Accra Town, an island community close to Yeji in the Brong-Ahafo Region are not enrolled in school or getting proper education due the persistence of child labour.
Of the more than1,000 children of school going age in the island, only 250 of them are enrolled in school, Communications Manager of Challenging Heights, Ms Pomaa Arthur, has revealed.
Children of school going age are often found engaging in fishing with their parents or guardians on the Lake Volta during school hours resulting in lateness or total absenteeism at the only educational centre in the community – Accra Town D/A Primary School.
This came to light when Challenging Heights (CH); a Non-Governmental Organisation based in Winneba, visited the coastal community with members of its Ambassadors Programme. The visit was to expose the ambassadors to the humanitarian and philanthropic activities of the organisation.
It also provided an opportunity for the Ambassadors to interact with the schoolchildren, teachers and residents of the community.
The group of seven from the United States of America, for a period of two-weeks, will familiarise themselves with the four core programmes – education, recovery and rescue of trafficked children, livelihood and advocacy – of Challenging Heights,
Ms Arthur said although the scale of child trafficking and hazardous labour amongst children in the area had declined significantly since Challenging Heights started working with the community, there still remains a lot more work to be done.
“Challenging Heights has since 2005 rescued over 1,500 children from the Lake Volta and has provided shelter for over 1,000 survivors,” she added.
Ms Arthur said Challenging Heights would work closely with its partners to bring an end to child labour in the coastal communities.
The Headmaster of Accra Town D/A Primary School, Mr Wisdom Tsamenyi, said one of the major problems confronting the school was the issue of pupil absenteeism and lateness.
He said that often, families in the community had very little interest in their children’s education as compared to their help with fishing and mending of nets on the Lake.
“Sometimes, I have to go round the community on my motorbike appealing to parents and guardians to release their wards to come to school. Some of them yield to my request and allow the children to come to school for a period. Others release their children after their fishing is done and some do not come to school at all,” he added.
Mr Tsamenyi noted that children were frequently late in coming to school and due to the nature of work they do, they mostly report to school very tired as a result, noting “These pupils habitually sleep during lessons and immediately ran back home during break-time.”
He further explained that the pupils, after completing their primary school, have to relocate to the Yeji township to continue with their junior high education, adding that, the situation discourage them from starting school since it is unlikely that they will carry on with the learning process.
Speaking about the unavailability of accommodation for teachers, Mr Tsamenyi explained that housing problems deterred most teachers who have been posted to the community from coming to teach.
“The conditions of service in this vicinity are very poor. Accommodation is not provided for us and this is coupled with inaccessibility to potable drinking water. Even here in the school, students have to walk three kilometres to and fro each day to fetch drinking water from the lake, which is our only source of water,” he lamented.
Mr Tsamenyi was however, grateful to Challenging Heights for facilitating the construction of the primary school for Accra Town and supporting the school with shoes for the pupils as well as teaching and learning materials.
Chairman of Friends of Challenging Heights USA, Mr Mark Hamilton, they have been inspired more to raise funds to help stop child trafficking in Ghana, improve education and strengthen communities to economically empower themselves and resist trafficking.
“We have been to the CH’s Hovde House Shelter in Central Region where we met some survivors of child trafficking and saw for ourselves how Challenging Heights is working with them to reintegrate them into society. Now we are here in Yeji, and judging by the number of children we saw working on the lake, it’s obvious that more needs to be done to end child slavery in Ghana,” he said.
The Recovery and Community Engagement Manager of Challenging Heights, Stephen Addo, urged the government, corporate institutions and individuals to join forces with CH to end child trafficking in Ghana.