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Guilty or not guilty

Tue, 18 May 2010 Source: GNA


Accra, May 18, GNA - Just as no two families are alike, no two beaches match the perfect beach formula. Except for sand, sun and water with an occasional fish or seabird which are fairly standard, the options for fun and way of living remain varied.

At most beaches in Europe and the Americas you will find luxurious hotels and apartments, seafood, saltwater taffy, enjoy fireworks, beach music, carousels, windsurfing, boogie boards or activities along a boardwalk.

Let us shift our attention to the life of people living near beaches in Ghana. Example of places you can get access to the beach are the Central Region, Greater Accra Region, Western Region and the Volta Region. I am sure you know I am going to talk about these areas as poverty stricken places, which of course I will, but first I have to acknowledge that some of the beaches have very nice hotels which serve as a getaway places for honeymooners and holiday makers.

Next time you stay in an expensive hotel close to the beach in Accra take time off and tour the streets of the little town or area there. I am sure you will be amazed at some sights as I discovered in James Town in Accra.

The centre of Accra contains the main banks, the large department stores, the Cocoa Marketing Board headquarters and a whole area known as The Ministries where government business is done.

A lot of people still live in the poor dejected towns which have grown up around the edges of the city. Homes in the poor towns are crowded and cramped and are made of wood and materials that their owners can lay hands on.

These are sticks, palm fronds woven into screens, corrugated iron sheets or plywood, concrete breezeblocks and discarded packing cases. James Town has mazes with muddy lanes where goats, chickens and dogs scramble for scraps. The dusty roads that lead into Central Accra are lined with open-fronted shacks and stands selling almost everything including cooked food.

Women sit at the road side with their babies strapped to their backs and sell oranges, yams and plantains.

This is where I found Ruth, a beautiful girl I took special interest in. I asked her if she didn't go to school that day and she gave a shy smile and told me she had never been to school.

I asked her how old she was and she told me she was 10 years old and in order to confirm what she was telling me, I asked to see her parents. I noticed a woman sitting across the street with a piece of cloth wrapped around her, revealing most parts of her breast and eating rice and beans from a bowl right in front of an open gutter with flies. Ruth pointed to her as her mother.

Veronica, a single mother of three who sells oranges to feed her family, confirmed she is the mother of Ruth and said she did not know the whereabouts of the father of her kids.

She said she managed to take her first born to school but she could not afford to pay school fees for the rest.

"Oh madam, it is very common here. See all the people here, none of us went to school and you see when Ruth is 13 years she will have a baby and we will organize a nice kpogiemor (outdooring) for her," she said. Veronica introduced me to about 10 girls in the area between the ages of 14 and 24 who had kids without knowing the whereabouts of their fathers. This got me more curious so I decided to go to the chief's palace to ask what he is putting in place to curb the situation in the area. Nii Ayikai III said deviant behaviour in the town had become a nightmare for him. He had tried all means of curbing the rate of single motherhood and to promote education but the situation had gone beyond redemption, he said.

"Now I have declared James Town 'a no man's land' where any one can do anything that pleases him or her."

At the age of 10, Ruth does not know what she would want to be in future, she has not stepped her foot in the classroom before and her mother hopes that by age 13 she would give birth.

What would become of Ruth's child? Some of these kids when they grow up may be forced to go into prostitution, armed robbery and other anti-social evils to make ends meet.

Let us ask ourselves, who will they rob, who would they give the HIV to when they are infected?

We are all at risk. Instead of lavishing so much money on beauty contests and other competitions let us invest in these children and put them in school.

Undoubtedly, lots of them have dreams and goals but they see the achievement of these goals and objectives as impossible due to where they are now. They must be helped now and a lot of people and organizations have the capacity to help. It is up to you and me to make a change in their lives. Action must start now. 18 May 10

Columnist: GNA