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General News Thu, 15 Jun 2006

That there may be no Street Child on June 16 - MP

Accra, June 15, GNA- Mrs Alice Boon, Member of Parliament (MP) for Lamboussie, has suggested to the Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs (MOWAC) to take positive action so that at least no child was found on the street on Friday, June 16, 2006, the "Day of the African Child".

She argued that in spite of the well meaning efforts in the interest of children, there were still children on the streets and minors as porters and taking them all off the street for at least a day would send signals that the "day was not being held for fun".

Mrs Boon made the point in a contribution to a statement by Hajia Alima Mahama, Minister of Women and Children's Affairs, in Parliament, on Thursday, on the occasion of the African Union (AU) Day of the African Child, which falls on Friday, June 16, 2006.

The Day was chosen by the AU, then the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), in 1990 for Member States to reflect on the plight of all African children and to improve their lives.

The date June 16 was chosen to honour the memory of over 100 school children, who were brutally massacred in Soweto, South Africa, in June 1976, by the then Apartheid Regime for marching to demand their right to quality education.

This year's celebration, being held on the theme "Right to Protection-Stop Violence against Children", throw the searchlight on violence perpetrated against children in the form of physical violence, neglect and abuse in the home and community, corporal punishment, violence in the school and exploitation in the workplace.

Hajia Mahama noted that the girls were forced into marriages; underwent female genital mutilation; ritual slavery and sexual assault by males in the school environment, including teachers.

There are also disturbing reports of defilement and rape of girls within the community and even in the family, and other instances of sexual violation of young girls with disability.

Hajia Mahama rejected any form of violence against children for any cultural, traditional reasons or on the grounds of poverty, adding that the future of Ghana as a nation would be greatly impaired if children were allowed to suffer physical, mental, psychological and sexual violence and abuse in their tender years.

While noted Government's initiatives to progressively address the manifold problems of children and announced that the Ministry had early this year, conducted research on violence against children to better understand the scale and complexity of the problem.

Also the work of the Domestic Violence Support Unit of the Ghana Police Service had been expanded to all the regions and some districts and now had 42 centres. She called for the provision of adequate resources for the Ministry and the law enforcement agencies to accomplish their task.

Mrs Agnes Chigabatia, NPP Member for Builsa North, suggested castration of men, who perpetrated sexual violence against girls, but Mr Mahama Ayariga, MP for Bawku Central on a point of order rejected the suggestion explaining that there was the need to be considerate about such punishment.

Prof Mike Ocquaye, Minister of Communication, on a point of order also rejected the suggestion by Mr Alfred Yaw Agbesi, NDC Member for Ashaiman, that laid blame on parents inability to care adequately for their children, explaining that there were financially sound people, who rejected their responsibility, and that the law must be made to check parents, who neglected their responsibility towards their children.

Prof Ocquaye identified children as the nation's hope for the future and called for a proper acculturation of children to acquire the basic norms of society such as respect for elders adding that the law must be used for social re-engineering to enforce parental responsibility.

Ms Akua Sena Dansua, NDC Member for North Dayi, while wishing African children well, also observed that despite the increase in basic school enrolment due to the introduction of the Capitation Grant, there was the need to look at the availability of teachers, teaching and learning materials as well as school buildings, books and chalk, to provide a psychologically conducive environment, and to make education accessible and effective to all children.

She cited the situation in some schools in the Nkwanta North in the Volta Region, where classrooms were full of children but had no teachers.

The Minority Leader, Mr Alban Sumanu Bagbin=92s comment that women and children issues had been raised to the highest political level through the establishment of the MOWAC attracted cheers from the Majority Side, but he, however, urged the Government to refocus on the units, institutions and organizations dealing with child upbringing.

Dr Kofi Konadu Apraku, NPP Member for Offinso North, said there was the need to provide the kind of education that would make the Ghanaian child to compete effectively in a globalised community.

He stressed the need to check children's consumption of products of the Internet and the electronic media that negatively affected positive value systems, adding that democracy must start from the homes to avoid the abuse of children.

Source: GNA