Ghana’s Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing, Hon. Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, has demanded that the youth be given a voice in the country’s decision-making process in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“Young people should be included in official decision-making processes and all stakeholders should take steps to ensure that the voice of the youth is heard through democratic channels at the local, regional and national levels,” he stated.
Delivering the keynote address at the launch of a national inter-schools water, sanitation and hygiene quiz in Accra Thursday, September 1, 2011 under the theme; “Promoting Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Partnership with the Youth”, the Minister added that including the youth is in accordance with Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and applies to rights in general as well as to water and sanitation issues.
“Empowering young people means allowing them to make informed decisions that affect their lives,” he stressed.
Hon. Alban Bagbin said it is in consonance with this principle that the Ministry of Water Resources Works and Housing continues to support the participation of children and youth in deliberations of the Ghana Water Forum and the Stockholm Junior Water Prize among others.
“Young people, who are significant victims of the problems of unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation and hygiene, are also strong instruments of change for socio-economic development,” he stated further.
The minister said he was convinced the youth possess the ability to partner government in its quest to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene services for all. “You stand as instruments of greater enlightenment, awareness creation and community mobilisation and I challenge you to delve into your creative abilities to propose solutions to the numerous challenges that bedevil our WASH sector,” he charged.
He reminded participants that although there are attractive prices at stake, “The important thing is not the victory but the contest; the essential thing is not to have won, but to have fought well!” Alban Bagbin also prodded the organisers that the overall objective of the national quiz is to improve access to WASH services for the good people of Ghana.
For his part, Dr. Alhassan Sumani, Director of Water, Water Directorate, in his welcome address at a launch that attracted two ministers of state (including deputy education minister), almost all the heads of the 10 participating schools, members of the top echelon of the Ghana Education Service ~(GES) and Directors of the Water Resources Commission, Environmental Health and Sanitation Directorate (EHSD) and Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA), divulged that the national WASH quiz had been informed by the fact that the youth are most times neglected when workshops and fora are organised in the sector.
“More often than not, when we discuss matters affecting water, sanitation and hygiene, we normally hold conferences, we hold workshops to the neglect of children and yet these children are the most potent avenues that we have, to have issues disseminated to the public. Hopefully this programme will help spread the issues of water and sanitation,” Dr. Sumani said.
In a note read on her behalf by her deputy in charge of pre-tertiary education, Mrs. Elizabeth Amoah Tetteh, Mrs. Betty-Mould Iddrisu, Minister for Education, said; “We at the ministry are of the belief that the quiz competition would encourage the youth to cultivate an interest in issues of water and sanitation and also ensure greater WASH agenda.”
She indicated that “The policies of the Ministry of Education include creation of neat and healthy environment, hence children are being encouraged to plant trees around schools to filter the air, give shade etc.”
Betty-Mould Iddrisu also said as their contribution to WASH, school children are taught the importance of washing their hands before and after eating, as well as refraining from pollution of the environment with littering of papers and indiscriminate defecation.
“The Ministry of Education, through the Ghana Education Service, Schools Health Education Programme (SHEP) will continue to assist our children to observe good sanitation and hygiene practices in their schools and homes,” she pledged.
Giving an overview of the quiz programme, Mr. Attah Arhin, Project Manager of the Improvement of Water Sector Performance Management Framework (IWSPMF) of the Water Directorate, Ministry of Water Resources Works and Housing funded by the European Union, said, “This inter-schools water, sanitation and hygiene quiz taking place is yet another opportunity to partner the youth to accelerate water and sanitation services delivery for the socio-economic development of the country.”
He explained that the maiden edition of the quiz will involve schools that emerged as regional champions during a national debate to commemorate the 54th Independence Anniversary celebration of Ghana this year.
The schools are Achimota School, Aggrey Memorial SHS, Tarkwa SHS, Kpando SHS and Abuakwa State College representing the southern zone and St! Francis Xavier, Gowrie SHS, Damongo SHS, Drobo SHS and Esaase Bontefufuo SHS representing the northern zone.
Mr. Attah Arhin disclosed that the competition will commence in the northern zone on October 2, 2011, while the southern zone will take their turn the following week, October 9, 2011.
The grand finale, he said, will involve three top schools each from the zonal competitions and will be held on October 16, 2011, divulging that all the contests will be telecast live on GTV as well as all GBC radio stations across Ghana.
He further intimated that the contestants will be quizzed on five thematic areas, which will include urban water delivery, rural water delivery, water resources management, water related sanitation and hygiene education as well as current affairs or recent happenings in Ghana’s WASH sector.
Concerning prizes for the winners, the IWSPMF project manager divulged that the ultimate winning school and runners-up may be awarded laptops and other accessories, while all participating schools will be awarded consolation prizes.
He disclosed that initially it was proposed that the winner and runner-up should be sponsored to the Stockholm Water Week and Ghana Water Forum respectively, because the quiz had been scheduled for an earlier date. The Stockholm Water Week has however, already been held, while the Ghana Water Forum would have been held before the contest begins, he stated but promised there would be similar awards for the winning schools.
On behalf of the lead organisers, Mr. Attah Arhin also pledged that the next competition will be started from the district, through regional before the national level, to ensure greater participation.
Representatives of all partners of the quiz programme – Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, EHSD, Ministry of Education, Ghana Education Service, Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, Ghana Water Company Limited, Community Water and Sanitation Agency, Water Resources Commission, European Union and Community Development Agency, expressed their joy at being partners and pledged support for the success of the programme.
By Edmund Smith-Asante