The Executive Director of Child Rights International (CRI), Mr Bright Appiah, has called on the government to engage with children before rolling out social intervention programmes that target them as beneficiaries.
He said half of the challenges that had characterised the educational sector, in particular, could have been avoided if children, who were the beneficiaries, had been involved in planning the programmes.
Mr Appiah was speaking at this year’s Child Initiative Forum held in Takoradi in the Western Region. He said the government must create space for children to participate in matters that concerned them.
"It is sad that children are sidelined when it comes to planning government programmes or framing policies that target them as beneficiaries," he said.
He explained that the ideas and preferences of children mattered and that the government or state agencies must do well to get them involved in planning programmes and policies.
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Mr Appiah said policies such as school feeding and free uniforms and free shoes never got the full understanding, therefore, some beneficiaries saw it as a gift rather than social investment.
Child Initiative Forum
The Child Initiative Forum is an annual event organised by CRI, in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) and Mondelez International Cocoa Life, to give children a voice on issues that affect their well-being.
Each year, the forum brings children from all over the country together to deliberate on issues affecting them and to take part in activities that promote their welfare.
This year’s event was on the theme: “Protecting children in cocoa-growing communities; essential foundation for sustainable cocoa”.
Some of the issues that dominated the discussions included child protection in cocoa-growing areas and the implementation of the double track school system.
The children, who were mainly from the Western Region, expressed concerns about the mode of implementation of the double track policy and the fact that senior high schools (SHSs) would now operate on a semester basis.
Even though they were not against it, they argued that frequent changes in the educational system were affecting them because they were not involved before final decisions were made.
They mentioned the shifting of SHS duration to four years and its reversal to three years as some of the decisions that had affected them in the past.
Mr Appiah said ever since the forum was began, children had expressed various concerns regarding some government policies that did not take their interests into consideration.
"Some of their concerns centred on education, their well-being and other issues regarding their future aspirations," he mentioned.
He said efforts had been made by the CRI and its partners over the past year to sensitise children to issues of national development and their personal growth.
The forum lasted a period of five days, after which the children issued a communique calling for a national education policy that was devoid of political interference.
According to them, the only way to prevent any political party or government from tampering with the country’s educational system was to have a policy that could not be easily changed.
The presence of an enshrined policy on education, they maintained, would bind political parties and compel them to develop their manifestos around it.