Children of school going age must be off the street come September, Madam Otiko Afisa Djaba, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP) has said.
She stressed: “Come September, at least the children of school going age must be off the street, it is not only MoGCSP which is doing this, we are coordinating but the ownership must come from all of us including the parents”.
Madam Afisa Djaba said this at a stakeholder meeting on streetism dubbed: “Operation Get Off the Street for a Better Life” held by the MoGCSP in Accra on Tuesday.
She said the current prevalence of street children in the country was extremely worrying and their increasing numbers is an indication of the weakened extended family values and governance systems which were increasingly unable to protect and provide for children and care for these very vulnerable people.
“As a Ministry we are focusing on the issue today because of the need to stop this harmful and hazardous practice that infringes on the right of the child to education, to play and to be protected from physical, mental and psychological abuse.”
Madam Afisa Djaba indicated that the MoGCSP understood that the dignity and full potential of any child, young person and person with disability was under threat for as long as they continued to live and operate on the streets adding that “It is for this reason why we have developed a comprehensive document which will be the basis for the implementation of the programme we are calling “Operation Street to Better Life,” she said.
She said the document was necessitated based on findings and on recommendations made in a mapping and analysis of the Child Protection System Report on strengthening Child Family Welfare System.
According to the Sector minister, in 2011, the Social Welfare Department under the MoGCSP conducted a census on street children in the Greater Accra Region, where it was revealed that about 60,495 children lived and work on the street.
“In this number, there are 66 per cent migrant children and 18 per cent urban dwellers among other smaller groups.
“There was a particular concentration of street children in the Accra Metropolis with approximately 50,000 children, other areas of the region had significantly less children,” she said.
Madam Afisa Djaba noted that 1,757 children were found in the Ga East Municipal district, while 939 were in the Ga West Municipal with 5,768 representing Ashiaman and the remaining 2,031 coming from Nungua and Teshie respectively.
She, therefore, explained that the project “Operation Street to Better Life” would address streetism and the document also outlines clear onset, challenges and prevention strategies to manage this severe societal problem which is a serious threat to national security and development.
She added that the project which would work under short, medium and long term strategies would link the extremely poor to pro-poor interventions like LEAP, the LEAP 1000 and the planting for food and jobs initiatives of the Akufo-Addo government.
“We will conduct a mapping exercise to collect data on street children in identified areas where streetism is a major concern, once identified, our filed teams will conduct several operations to systematically rescue them.
“We will have to keep on with the interaction and argument that Ghana, 60 years on we cannot afford to have people living on the streets, begging and selling,” she said.
Mr. Richard Adjetey, the Principal Director of Social Welfare, attributing the major cause of streetism to urbanization and called for the adoption of a conceptual approach towards the addressing of the menace.
Madam Heike Drechsel-Atta, the Project Leader Assistant of Kinder Paradise, called for the training and equipping of workers to the various districts where thorough education would be served on a larger scale.
Participants called for the extensive education as well as sensitization of parents on streetism as having little knowledge on family planning was an overwhelming cause of the subject and propose for a dialogue for all beneficiaries of the project.
They urged the media to remain a critical part of the awareness creation of the programme and the getting of vulnerable children off the streets.