Many policies have been instituted to address issues of child labour and the need for enhanced protection regimes has been stressed by all stakeholders, yet many children in the country still remain vulnerable to various forms of exploitation.
Diaso, a town located in the Upper Denkyira West District, is endowed with lots of natural resources. Besides gold and other minerals, the area is also known for its timber resources and extensive cocoa farms.
And instead of these resources being a blessing to the people of Diaso and other communities in Upper Denkyira West, it is gradually turning to be a curse with the livelihood of people being affected as many have involved themselves in the growing illegal mining business.
Many children have also been lured to participate in the business of illegal mining or ‘galamsey’ as the lifestyles of those associated with the business is attractive and appealing.
Again they are compelled to join the illegal business as the rewards are more apparent compared to going to school and studying books. But they also forget the dangers they are exposed to which in the long run would have a negative impact on their development.
Many children in Diaso are often engaged in mining activities and this does not conform to the provisions in the national legislations especially the Children Act, 1998 (560), which defines the extent of activities to be undertaken by children.
Mr Robert Kwamina Assomaning, Chief Director of Education in Upper West Denkyira, agrees that the prevailing situation in the district is worrying and has used various community gatherings to urge parents to do more with regards to changing the mindsets of their children and highlighting the significance of education.
Like all children, the children in Diaso have role models and these are often people who have attained some success in life mainly through illegal mining. And with this, many children seek to emulate their models to the detriment of their schooling and advice of discerning adults.
“The issue of ‘galamsey’ has disrupted education among children”, Mr Assomaning says adding that “many children are not enthused about going to school as they prefer going to these ‘galamsey’ sites to make some money”.
Victor Abugri, a 15-year-old JHS student, in an interview with the Ghana News Agency, said “I do attend class but not often. I sometimes have to make time and go to the ‘galamsey’ site and see whether we can get some gold. And I am not the only one as it has become a daily routine here among me and my peers in our village”.
The high rise of teenage pregnancy in Diaso is also a worrying concern to many stakeholders of the area as this greatly affects the health, education and social lives of girls in the society.
A report by the Health Directorate in Upper West Denkyira District revealed that 191 cases of teenage pregnancies have been recorded as at writing this article and statistics for the 2017 and 2018 reveal that a total of 948 cases of teenage pregnancy were recorded.
Beatrice Agyemang, a mother of five children, said “these ‘galamseyers’ often take advantage of our young ladies in financial difficulties and encourage them to participate in sexual activities in order to make a living for themselves”.
Osei Kwaku Frimpong, Assemblyman for Bethlehem Electoral Area in Diaso, said “prostitution is prevalent in many communities especially with the influx of foreigners. Young girls are exploited by these ‘galamseyers’ and the vice has become a booming trade involving many girls”.
In spite of the prevailing concerns such as child labour, child exploitation and teenage pregnancy there have been efforts made by stakeholders in the district to reduce the exposure of children to the prevailing vices and dangers.
Agyemang Asiedu, Upper Denkyira West District Chief Executive Officer (DCE), said efforts are being made by the assembly to halt the activities of illegal mining and the involvement of children in the mines.
“The issues of ‘galamsey’ has been a problem to the district but the activities of Operation Vanguard has also helped to arrest the situation”, he said.
‘’It is very heartbreaking when you see children around illegal mining sites, when they are supposed to be in school, all because they want to make money- something detrimental to their development”, he said.
There have been efforts by numerous non-governmental organisations to address the issues of child protection in many of these areas and their effort has provided a sense of renewed hope to children living in these areas.
Mr Gregory Dery, Child Protection and Advocacy Manager for World Vision Ghana, said building the resilience and life skills of children living in such areas is vital as these are the key factors in discouraging the involvement of children in the mines.
“When a child has vision at an early stage in life, they will work towards achieving it but many children in these areas don’t have such opportunities.
“We have outlined a curriculum where we take these children through a series of activities, where they set goals and work towards them regardless of what it happening in the communities. The situation in Diaso is worrying, hence the need for all stakeholders to get involved,” he said.
By Simon Asare