News September 07, 2018 at 12:00 pm

Ghana is treading the dangerous path of Senegal as child beggars engulf its cities

Mildred Europa Taylor | Head of Content

Mildred Europa Taylor September 07, 2018 at 12:00 pm

September 07, 2018 at 12:00 pm | News

Child begging is more than just children asking for money on the streets but how children are trafficked by adults and used for business purposes

“Stop giving to child beggars.”

This has often been the plea made to Ghanaians as authorities intensify efforts to rid the streets of child beggars who have invaded the country in their numbers, particularly, the capital, Accra.

A majority of these child beggars, with the endorsement of their parents, can be found on some of the city’s major roads, begging for alms to feed themselves and the family, usually in the full glare of the police.

Child beggars in Ghana

Coming in different ages, complexion and sexes, including foreigners, mostly from Niger and Chad, these children are often malnourished, poorly dressed and coated in dirt.

They have learned all sorts of tricks to get money from members of the public, including pretending to be sad and sick or grabbing their targets by their clothes in a bid to convince or force them to give them some money.

The government is hoping to sweep the over 300,000 children off the streets through announced policies and initiatives but this may not materialize anytime soon.

Child beggars — powerlighthouse.blogspot.com

Apart from the hospitability of a majority of Ghanaians, it has been revealed that child begging in the country is no more than just children asking for money on the streets but how children are trafficked by adults and used for business purposes.

This is contained in a documentary by Ghanaian investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, titled “Chained by Begging”, which further revealed that the recent rise in child beggars can also be linked to cross-border child trafficking.

The documentary, which has been done in conjunction with OAfrica, a child support organization, discovered the presence of an international child trafficking ring which is fueling the child begging menace, one of the worst forms of child labour which keeps children out of school.

“Giving child beggars money does not help the children because the money goes to their “masters” and does not serve the wellbeing of these vulnerable and innocent children.

“In fact, it only makes the industry bigger with more street children and more attractive and lucrative for traffickers. If we want to STOP child begging in Ghana then we have to STOP giving money to the children on the street.

“This will help prevent additional children being recruited as child beggars,” a statement released by OAfrica on the documentary said.

Child begging is often done with the endorsement of parents — Modern Ghana

Essentially, the documentary is calling the attention of relevant authorities to a situation that if not curtailed immediately could escalate and spell doom for the future generation as being experienced in the neighbouring West African country, Senegal.

The country has, over the years, been having a hard time cracking down on some Islamic schools that are forcing children to beg.

Many of these children, known as talibe, are sent by parents in Senegal or trafficked from neighbouring countries such as Guinea-Bissau to Islamic schools, called daaras, where they are supposed to receive food, shelter and teachings from the Koran.

But thousands of these children in daaras later end up being forced to beg in the streets to make money for their teachers, called marabouts.

Child beggars in Senegal — Aljazeera

These marabouts, who are often revered by communities and even politicians, punish the children if they are not able to bring back about $3 a day, according to human rights groups.

In June 2016, the Senegalese government launched a programme to crack down on forced child begging, known as “withdrawal of street children.”

Though it was able to remove about 1,547 children from the streets within a year, more than 1,000 of the children were ultimately returned to the same Islamic teachers who had sent them begging in the first place, said human rights group, Human Rights Organisation.

“The government opened no formal investigations into the teachers involved, no one was arrested, and no official inspections were conducted to ascertain the living conditions at the daaras,” the organization added.

There have been calls for marabouts, who make as much as $8 million a year from child begging, to be prosecuted but this does not often see the light of day.

 

Islamic teachers, who are often revered by communities and even politicians, punish the children if they are not able to bring back about $3 a day — Human Rights Watch

Meanwhile, dialogue between marabouts, civil society and the state is underpinned by fears of rising extremism in Senegal, following major attacks on hotels across West Africa by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) in recent years, said Reuters news agency.

With Koranic teachings firmly deep-seated in Senegalese culture, as well as, the challenges of porous borders and a lack of police coordination, Senegal may have a tough time in getting rid of these children from the streets.

Ghana should take a cue from this and find a holistic approach to deal with its own trans-border situation.

“…we will need to involve Immigration, Social Welfare, the various Ministries and Embassies and the public. The public are urged to report all children on the street and to stop giving to child beggars. We call for police and law enforcement agencies to arrest the traffickers,” according to OAfrica.

A child beggar in Senegal — eNCA

The more time both countries spend in finding an amicable solution to this issue, the more children will be separated from their families while exposing themselves to extreme living conditions and dangers such as ill-health, rape and motor accidents.

As contained in the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child and section 87 (1-2) of the Children’s Act, 1998 (Act 560), child begging is child abuse and also prohibited by law, apart from being exploitative.

Find out more about Ghana’s situation with child beggars in the “Chained by Begging” documentary below:

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