Challenging Heights, a child rights advocacy organisation in Ghana, is warning of a “very bleak” future for about one million Ghanaian children who are out of school.
According to Challenging Heights, the children, aged between five and fifteen, can be found across the country selling on the streets or engaging in various types of child labour at times when they should be in school.
James Kofi Annan, the organization’s president, described the development as “worrisome,” saying, “we are wasting the future of these children.”
Mr Annan said that the presence of children on the streets at times when they should be in school contravenes article 560 of the Children’s Act of 1998 which mandates parents – whether single or married – to see to their children’s education.
“There is no excuse for any parent to refuse to educate his or her children because the 1992 Constitution makes it compulsory for all children to access at least basic education,” he added.
He called for urgent and decisive action to get the children off the streets and enroll them in school, a move that he said was critical to safeguarding their future.
He said many of the children would resort to crime and engage in activities detrimental to the national interest if concrete measures are not taken to educate them.
He stressed the need to sensitise the public to this problem and to enable parents to educate their children and ensure their social protection.
Mr Annan called on government agencies to begin enforcing the right of children to education by arresting and prosecuting parents who refused to send their children to school.
He also emphasised the need to improve educational infrastructure across the country so that more children could be accommodated.
Commenting on the concerns expressed by Challenging Heights, the Director of Public Affairs at the Ministry of Education, Mr Paul Kofi Krampah, expressed regret that many children were still not attending school, in spite of the numerous social programmes put in place by the government to make basic education accessible and affordable.
He said the government had played its part by providing free education, free books, free school uniforms and free food at the basic level in order to make basic education affordable even to deprived Ghanaians.
Mr Krampah said the removal of 40 per cent of ‘schools under trees’ and the abolition of the shift system were all efforts aimed at making basic education more accessible to children.
He said parents whose children are not in school lack an understanding of the importance of education and called on the relevant agencies to educate such parents in that regard.