Friday, 19 August 2011 13:52

GHANA: Streetism And the Increase in Child Labour - the Case of Accra

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There are thousands of children living and working on the streets of Accra and other regional towns, and the number in Accra is growing by the day. The problems of streetism and child labour are complex and the phenomena have grown over the years.


Streetism is the result of increased urbanisation and the difficult socio-economic circumstances rural families are experiencing.

Kayayei, like any other children living and working on the streets, are vulnerable to all forms of exploitation and abuse, including what may be a higher risk of exposure to HIV/Aids, Cholera, Malaria and many other illnesses.

The Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) estimated in 2001approximately 27.2 percent of children aged 5 to 14 years in Ghana were working; certainly, it is obvious that the percentage has increased. In the rural areas, children can be found working in the fishing, herding and some are even contracted as farm labourers.

Children also work as domestic maids, porters, hawkers, mine and quarry workers, and fare-collectors. In urban centres like Accra, street children work mainly as truck pushers, porters, and sales workers. Several reasons have been adduced for the swarming of Accra, especially areas in and around Tudu and Tema Stations by boys and girls of school going age.

It is said that dropping out of school, poverty, lack of parental love for children and peer pressure are some of the causes of the massive migration from the North to the South.

Streetism, according to the Double 'Tongue' Dictionary, is the living of homeless or unmonitored children on the street.

By an internationally accepted definition adopted by the Commonwealth, a child is a person below the age of 18 years. Thus a street child is somebody aged below 18 years and live on the streets.

Child labour, on the other hand, is a forced labour by means of exploiting the child physically and emotionally. It is clear that there is a correlation between streetism and child labour such that the former has an obvious impact or effect on the latter in many ramifications and the two are inseparable.

History of streetism in Accra

When Accra became the capital of the then Gold Coast in 1877, it had a population of about 3, 612,950 million. Accra has since grown from a cluster of small coastal towns, to the status of a Metropolis of over 300,000 people in 1951. Today Accra is one of the most populated and fast growing metropolis in Africa and has served as the country's main port of entry with lots of economic activities. With the proliferation of many businesses, there is an influx of many people from the rural areas into the city doing business.

The 2010 Population and Housing Census provisional results show that the total population of Ghana stands at over 24 million which represent an increase of about 28 percent compared to the last census. Accra's population has increased by 32.2 percent and that of Ashanti Region is 34.6, percent.

However, records available at the Catholic Action for Street Children (CAS) revealed that like Bolivia and Brazil, Ghanaian society begun experiencing serious phenomenon of streetism only in 1993 when there were reports in the media of young people been sported on the streets of Accra.

With the emergence of streetism amidst the increase of the population in Accra there was little or no effort to consider the immediate effects of streetism in Ghana.

In times past when Ghana was an agrarian society, it was indeed critical to have several wives and children because they were needed as free labour to work on farms. But no more! The very nature of society has changed. Civilization has caught on with us making it unnecessary to empty ones groin just to populate the earth because the demands of today goes beyond just child birth.

The Nature of street children in Accra

I have discovered in my research that, a street child is often not well dressed, lean and not well mannered. S(he) tries to survive and hence adopt myriads of ways and means to do so as the street child is not supported by any one.

For a better insight of who a street child is, three categories/ typologies of street children have been identified as follows:

a) Street children on the streets of Accra having both parents living and a 'home' to go to. More often than not, this category of street children are supported and as such can be classified as or belong to the category of urban poor children. I have termed this category 'partial dependent street child'

b) Another category is children who live and work in the streets and have nobody to support them and as such are responsible for their daily up keep. I term this category as 'partial independent, street child.(street child)

c) The third category identified are children who were born in the streets of Accra, whose mothers are street mothers and are the 'chain or second generation' of street children. They are the ones I refer to as 'independent or hardened street children'.

The situation of streeism in Accra revealed that, there is a constant increase in the number of street children living and working in the streets of Accra.

According to reports recorded by Catholic Action for Street Children (CAS), in 1992, 7000 street children were registered in Accra which was made up of category two and three - children who live and work in the streets and have nobody to support them and as such are responsible for their daily up keep and I term this category as 'partial independent, street child.(street child) and children who were born in the streets of Accra, whose mothers are street mothers and are the 'chain or second generation' of street children. (Independent or hardened street children). 10400 street Children were registered in 1996, while in the year 2000, 17181 category two and three street children were registered. 2001 and 2002 saw a tremendous increase of 17357 and 19196 respectively. Subsequent years were threatening as the population continuous increases and businesses flourish.

Activities/ occupation of street children in the street of Accra

A careful look at the day to day movement of street children revealed that, majority of street girls either sell food or iced water and many are porters (kayaye). Their male counterparts sweep and clean gutters and markets. A large number of them work as porters in the markets and others as shoe shinning boys. The shoe shine business is one of the booming businesses in recent times and a major source of income to most of them.

Studies have revealed that 40 percent of the street children have only one or two meals a day while a little over 50 percent have 3 meals a day. More so, many of the children eat the same type of food on two or three occasions the same day. Unfortunately, a lot of the food they eat are not balanced diets or nutritious. Many of them fall sick on regular basis.

Source: Public Agenda (Accra, Ghana)

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