In 1989, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimated 100 million children were growing up on urban streets around the world. According to UN sources, there are up to 150 million street children in the world today.
The exact number of street children is impossible to quantify, but the figure almost certainly runs into tens of millions across the world. It is likely that the numbers are increasing.
Many destitute children, who are chased from home by domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, the death of a parent, family breakdown, war, natural disaster or simply socio-economic collapse, are forced to make up a living on the streets through scavenging, begging, hawking in the slums and polluted cities of the developing world.
Various categories of street children exist. There are those who work on the streets as their only means of getting money, those who take refuge on the streets during the day but return to some form of family at night and those who permanently live on the street without a family network. All are at risk from abuse, exploitation and vigilante or police violence but the most vulnerable are those who actually sleep and live on the streets, hiding under bridges, in gutters, in railway stations, a lot of who can be found in the urban areas.
Town Hall meeting
Addressing a town hall meeting at Winneba last Thursday, Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) of Effutu in the Central Region, Mr John B. Ninson, called on stakeholders to support the assembly’s efforts towards clearing children of school age from the streets.
He also appealed to parents in particular to send their children to school instead of leaving them to walk on the streets, as well as work at the beach.
The meeting, which was organised by the Ministry of Information, in collaboration with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, was attended by assembly members, security personnel, chiefs, market women and artisans.
According to him, it is a worrying development in the area to see on a daily basis children who are supposed to be enrolled in school rather loitering in the municipality during instructional hours.
He noted that since the area was a fishing community, some of these children were not sent to school but rather allowed to accompany their parents to engage in their fishing activities at the beach; thus, preventing them from acquiring basic education.
The meeting had the objective of providing an opportunity for government officials to explain the free senior high school (SHS) policy, as well as the Planting for Food and Jobs programme to the understanding of the participants.
Advice to parents
Mr Ninson advised parents to prioritise the education of their children by investing heavily in it to augment the efforts of government towards the provision of good and quality education to the citizenry.
He stated that although the area could boast of the Winneba Senior High School (WINNESEC) and the University of Education, Winneba (UEW), only few students from the area were admitted to such schools.
The MCE expressed concern about congestion in some basic schools in the area which was negatively affecting effective teaching and learning at the basic level and stressed that a classroom that was supposed to accommodate 40 pupils was currently occupied by about 80 pupils.
He mentioned that the situation did not support quality education delivery which reflected in the Basic Education Certificate Examination results.
Contributing to the discussion, the Effutu Municipal Director of the Ghana Education Service (GES), Mrs Rose Tenkurang, said it was a worrying situation to see most of the pupils in the municipality not able to climb to the senior high level, apparently due to streetism.
She particularly admonished parents to have time for their children, as well as commit resources towards their education so that they could become responsible individuals capable of contributing to the growth and development of the country.
She called for concerted efforts from parents, teachers and government to ensure that children were kept in school to realise their aspirations.
The Chief of Effutu Ateitu, Nana Obosu II, who chaired the meeting, added his voice to the call for stakeholder support to deal with truancy among pupils in the municipality.
According to him, education is the only legacy that parents can bequeath to their children. He stressed that “parents must, therefore, be responsible for the education of their children.”