The issue of begging on our streets is an age-old problem that many governments have lived through.
It has refused to go away because it has become a lucrative venture, not only for Ghanaian beggars, but also for beggars from the West African sub-region, despite numerous interventions that have been made over time by the Department of Social Welfare.
However, the most troubling aspect of begging on our streets is the involvement of children of school age in the age-old but demeaning practice.
Motorists will be the first to admit to the embarrassment and inconvenience that the beggars visit on them as they are accosted in traffic each day, especially if they are children.
While we admit that the poor will be with us always as the Good Book says, we are aware of various attempts by governments to reduce the number of the poor in society by crafting pro-poor policies.
Many beggars have gone back to the streets to resume begging even when they had been taken off to shelters and offered training in one vocation or the other because they either found street begging more lucrative or just did not want to do any work to cater for themselves.
The Daily Graphic believes that no matter one’s status in society, there is no justification whatsoever to resort to begging, especially if it involves a child.
If a child is taught how to beg, it means that child will grow up thinking that other people must be responsible for his or her upkeep and if that is not forthcoming, the next thing on their mind may be stealing or robbery.
This is why the Daily Graphic finds it heartwarming, the rescue of 71 child beggars from the streets in Accra, out of which 17 have been re-integrated with their families. We wish, though, that the number could be more so that our streets are rid forever of child beggars.
It is unacceptable that there are currently about 1,000 children on the streets of Accra alone.
While we laud “Operation get off the street for better life,” being embarked on in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, we pray that the project is not made to collapse for want of funds.
There are many non-governmental organisations which are already championing several interventions to take care of street children and we believe that this is the right time for the government to partner such NGOs to rid the streets of children who may become very influential people in society one day.
We, however, ask that the project is implemented holistically, meaning it should be able to tackle the problem of streetism at the roots. Every child has a relative or guardian, and steps must not only be taken to trace them but it should also be considered illegal to leave children in one’s care to roam the streets begging.
Begging on our major streets is itself outlawed and every Ghanaian must be sensitised to the need to refrain from encouraging street begging by parting with money to street beggars.
It has been trumpeted time and again that disability is not inability and we must discourage physically challenged persons from begging for alms when they can always do something productive that can make them have a sense of fulfilment in life.
We urge the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to take up the challenge and liaise with all agencies and NGOs within its ambit to holistically work towards the eradication of streetism and street begging.