Opinions Fri, 10 Sep 2010

Reforming Orphanages In Ghana : Some Suggestions

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27 (New International Version)

The recent monstrous revelations at the Osu Children’s Home and the Maame Dorkunoo ran-down orphanage must serve as a wake up call for Ghana to initiate policy interventions aimed at ameliorating a national crisis and shame. There is a problem at hand and we cannot choose to remain in a state of denial.

It would be deeply appreciated if the competent authorities could consider the following:

Let’s strengthen the operations of all child support institutions and facilities like the Department of Social Welfare, the National Commission on Children etc.

Let a National Inter-Sectoral Committee of experts explore how Ghana can promptly address all loopholes at the orphanages in the country.

Let’s face it. Most existing facilities meant for the custody and care of orphans in Ghana are in a very deplorable state. Foreign and local volunteers who visit our orphanages, daily, are appalled at the dehumanising conditions at most orphanages. Most of the existing orphanages are overcrowded, filthy and ill managed. There ought to be a major overhaul and rehabilitation of these facilities.

In addition, there is an urgent need to establish more modern public orphanages in Ghana, not only in Accra but also in the regions. Ghana’s Development Partners, I believe, would be more than willing to complement Government efforts if the matter were given the right attention and coordination.

Supervision: The armchair type of supervision from a distant headquarters/office should be a thing of the past. If this were done, there would be a change in attitude towards the running of state orphanages. Enough checks should be put in place to ensure that relief items donated for the upkeep of the children are actually put at the disposal of the inmates.

Government should encourage and push the existing state institutions to aggressively regulate the activities of public and private orphanages in the country.

Let’s flush out all the charlatans operating private orphanages without the required facilities and authorization. Some of the private orphanages have deviated from the very essence of their existence (i.e. addressing the welfare needs and well-being of children under their care and custody). The greedy and self-seeking individuals within the sector are rather concentrating all their zeal on raising funds from foreign and local sources for personal satisfaction.

Accelerate On-the-job training for caregivers at our orphanages. Obviously, the staffs at most of the public orphanages are overwhelmed by the enormity of the job. Government may consider some employment drive for more staff at the Homes. We cannot expect much from 3 or 4 women on duty at an orphanage to attend to over 50 crying kids at the same time. More so, some of these caregivers and attendants are largely ignorant of their job description and they are cold-heartedly mean in the treatment of children at the orphanages.

The message ought to be driven home to all Children’s Homes in the country that beyond feeding the children, they are also expected to nurture the kids, with love, to grow and contribute to the larger society. Judging from the mannerisms of some of these children, there is the growing fear by the day that the Homes are just churning out more and more unruly street urchins who might definitely not grow up as law abiding citizens. The System must not be allowed to fail these unfortunate children.

Further a field, the appropriate state agencies should also look into the need for creating more shelter homes for the destitute, the aged, and the mentally and physically challenged.

The recent scandalous revelations are just a tip of the iceberg. In any case, we do not have to wait until a C.N.N. or B.B.C. documentary highlights, on a global screen, our national shame and complicity in the poor handling of orphans and other vulnerable groups in the country. Let’s start a public discussion in official circles, places of worship, in the media etc on how best to save the situation in our orphanages.

By: Noble Mawutor Kudzo ALIFO Accra

Columnist: Alifo, Noble Mawutor Kudzo