General News of 2014-01-11

32 Children ‘suffer’ in Gambaga Witches Camp

About 32 children and young adults between the ages of one and 25 are suffering deprivation at the Gambaga Witches Camp, where their mothers and/or grandmothers are seeking refuge for allegedly being witches.

While some of the children followed their female guardians there after they were accused of being witches and banished from their respective communities, others were accused alongside their mothers and/or grandmothers and were, therefore, forced to also seek refuge in the camp.

All the children attend school.

The Gambaga Witches Camp is one of six such facilities in the Northern Region that currently serve as a refuge for people who have been accused of witchcraft and subsequently banished from their communities.

About 76 of the women, who are mostly aged, are currently at the facility. It is made up of clustered circular huts of various sizes, thatched with woven straw.

Although there are street lights within the area, the huts do not have lights. Drinking water is within a walking distance.

The Co-ordinator of the Presbyterian Church's Go-Home Project, Mr Samson Laar, told the Daily Graphic that two out of the 32 children at the camp had completed senior high school (SHS) while six were still in SHS. The remaining, he said, were in basic school.

Mr Laar added that the Go-Home Project, which was initiated by the Presbyterian Church in 1994 to help reintegrate the alleged witches into their communities, as well as cater for their welfare, had been helping with the educational expenses of the children.

That help, he says, augments the meagre earnings of their guardians, mostly from menial jobs such as firewood fetching, working for residents of the Gambaga town and the chief for cash and/or kind, among others.

Dampened spirits

When the Daily Graphic visited the facility to observe how Christmas was celebrated there, scores of the children were seen playing around the camp, which is a few steps from the Gambaga Market.

Except for a donation from the First Lady, Lordina Mahama, through the East Mamprusi District Assembly in which the camp is located, the happiness that Christmas normally bring to children, was absent at the camp.

The children shared in the donation to their guardians. They enjoyed a bottle each of soft drinks.

It was realised that all the dependents slept with their guardians in the round huts, which are almost the size of two large-size Polytank containers put together.

Twenty-two-year-old Mable (not her real name), who had completed SHS, told this paper that she and her three other siblings came to the camp after their mother was accused of being a witch and chased out of their home.

The mother pointed to a scar on her neck as a mark she suffered from her attackers in the course of the allegation.

Another victim, 20-year-old Hafisha (not her real name), was alleged to have benefited from her mother's witchcraft hence her exceptional brilliance in school.

She and her mother were banished from their community two years ago after Hafisha's accuser, who is her neighbour and mate in junior high school (JHS), alleged that Hafisha's mother had removed the accuser's brain for her daughter; hence, Hafisha's exceptional intelligence in school.

Hafisha scored aggregate 31 when she wrote the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) and is currently in SHS.

She did not accept she was exceptionally brilliant, during a chat with her, Hafisha believes her mother was innocent of the allegation.

"The one who said my mother removed his brain and added it to mine went to Kumasi, stayed for sometime and returned to say those things," she said.

Like Mabel, Hafisha says she dreads showing her friends and schoolmates where she lives.

"If they know, it won't be good for me, they will laugh at me," she said with tear-filled eyes.

Ambitious dreams

Although dozens of the children dislike their current places of residence, they have not allowed it to entirely hold back their happiness and ambitions.

As is the case with most children, many of them were seen loitering around cheerfully, with their parents and/or helping with house chores.

Some of those the paper spoke with said they would pursue their education with seriousness in the hope that they would one day become people of prominence to help give normal lifestyles to their mothers and grandmothers.

Ten-year-old Haruna, who is in Primary Six, said he wanted to be a doctor to help give medical care to his ailing mother.

"She falls sick always and I want to be able to give her injection," he said.

Hafisha, the high school girl, also said her ambition was to become a nurse while Mabel, who recently completed SHS, wants to continue with her education.

The ambitions of the children notwithstanding, the Daily Graphic realised that they risked growing up into timid adults because of their circumstances.

Their ability to pursue further education is also in doubt, particularly so, as their guardians—the accused witches— eke out a living from doing menial jobs.

Source: graphic.com.gh
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