Stories we are hearing lately on child pregnancies in certain parts of the country are disappointing. According to statistics conducted by the Ghana Health Service, about 750,000 teenagers between ages 15 to 19 became pregnant last year.
Out of this number, close to 14,000 teenagers in the Central Region alone were reported pregnant. Greater-Accra Region is reported to have had about 10,000 teenage pregnancies.
Astonishingly, at a recent health review for Greater-Accra, it came to light that it is not just teenage pregnancies but rather pregnancies involving much younger girls between the ages of 10 and 14 years. And that means that children as young as ten years are sleeping with men. This is quite an unacceptable occurrence. What happened to parental supervision?
Child delinquency and parental neglect
What is the future of a community or even a country where girls are dropping out of school at age 10 due to pregnancy? Have we lost it as parents and as community leaders? No, the time is due for us as a society to start cracking the whip, and very hard one too, on child delinquency and parental neglect.
Many questions have been running through my mind lately on that sector of the population we often want to refer to as the future of our country. The question that keeps coming back to me each time I see children loitering around is whether we have a law on child delinquency in this country? Or maybe we have but as usual, like the many beautiful laws in our statue books, that has also been paralysed.
A couple of weeks ago, as schools in the country re-opened for the 2017/18 academic year and with the aura of free Senior High School (SHS} in the air, the big story in the country shifted momentarily to “back to school”, “first day at school”, SHS placements, unauthorised fees, head teachers and of course, students and pupils.
In all of that, I picked up some crucial discussions by two local council authorities that I thought were worthy of drawing attention to. One was attributed to the Mayor of Tamale in the Northern Region and the other to the Chief Executive of La Dade-Kotopon in the Greater-Accra Region.
Campaign against delinquenc
Giving us some food for thought, the Mayor of Tamale, Idrisu Musah Superior made a bold declaration that he was going to embark on a campaign against child delinquency in the Tamale metropolis. Unfortunately, however, this piece of news did not catch the eyes of the media to earn a place in the national discourse for that week.
According to the Today newspaper of September 14, 2017, as schools reopened, the Mayor gave a two-week ultimatum to parents whose teenage children roam about the streets of Tamale after 10pm. Per the warning, after two weeks, he was not going to hesitate to order the police and the military to arrest and haul before a juvenile court, parents of minors who roam about.
Splendid idea if only it could be sustained. However, it beats imagination as to why the Mayor was giving a two-week ultimatum. Why not with immediate effect?
Just a day after the Tamale Mayor’s ultimatum, the Municipal Chief Executive of La Dade-Kotopon Municipal Assembly in the Greater Accra Region, Mrs. Gladys Mann-Dadey was also reported to have given similar warning to parents in her municipality.
According to September 15 issue of the Ghanaian Times, the Chief Executive gave a stern warning to parents whose children are found loitering around during school hours. The CEO who toured some schools within her municipality as part of activities to mark this year’s “My first day at school” fell short of prescribing the punishment that would go with children who fell prey to her ultimatum. The message was however very clear – let us say no to child delinquency.
Obviously, children roaming about, whether day time when they should be in the classroom or at night when they should be in bed or under the close watch of their parents is of key concern to the local authorities. And they are right. As a country that sees its future in the kind of investment we commit to and sow in our children, we cannot afford to watch on seemingly unconcerned. Surely, anything that stands in the way of their education must be stopped before it degenerates into doom for this country.
School drop outs
Two years ago, I remember a Chief in the Central Region who did not mince his words when he told parents in the town, during a festival durbar, that he was going to ask the police to start arresting teenagers who were found roaming the streets at night. According to the Chief, teenage pregnancy and school drop-out statistics in the area were becoming great worries for the future of the traditional area. He vowed to work to arrest the situation. One wonders how far the efforts of the Chief have gone.
In the city of Accra today, the newest craze pulling children out of school are betting shops. These shops are all over the place and in every community. Surprisingly, children are seen busy in these betting shops during school hours and sometimes at night and. Why should betting shops open their doors to children of school going age? So why should we not start sanctioning betting shops that open their doors to children? What future are we creating for them?
The Ghana Education Service (GES) must get its Inspectorate Division busy. We would like to see them making examples of parents whose children abscond from school to send out a lesson that they have a greater responsibility, 24 hours of the day, towards their children. If we have an active School Inspectorates active in their duties, monitoring absenteeism in the classroom, the nation would be better served for the future.
It is time for all Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies to follow the example of the Tamale Mayor and the Chief Executive of La Dade-Kotopon and help the country check on absenteeism and other unruly behaviours of minors on our streets and in the communities.
The Assemblies, working together with District Education Offices should begin to be tough and start hauling parents before the courts for neglecting their parental supervision, particularly for minors.
The street hawking and the Kayayei syndrome we have not been able to curb all these years no doubt cast serious slur on any strategy or good intentions we may have as a nation. We definitely need to crack the whip firmly on all forms of child delinquencies. The future of the country would look gloomy if we look on unconcerned.
…with Vicky Wireko-Andoh (email@example.com)