Any country that invests more in the education of their children is preparing for a bright and better future. Many countries in the world today are doing well to make sure children get the necessary support in Education to make sure that these children grow up to run the day to day administration of the world. I’ve always been questioning if Ghana and Africa is a part of the world that is fighting for the future of its children?
It is about 11 am on a rainy Friday morning, it is usually a time school children should be in class learning, but many children of school going age are loitering around the shores of Dixcov, a fishing community in the Ahanta West District in the western region. Many of these children are between the ages of 10 to 18.
These children seen at the shore are either helping offload fishes from boats that have just arrived from fishing or helping in the selling of the fishes. Some of the children looked bushed and frail as one could notice that they just arrived from fishing.
These children at the shore could easily identify people who are visiting fishing community for the first time, and quickly approach them with verbal proposals to help them get good deals in the fishing business.
Eighteen years old Nana Yaw popularly known as “Monney” is one of these kids who are into fishing at theexpense of Education in Dixcov. Nana is seen at the shore busily marketing his share of what he had earned from helping offload a boat.
Nana Yaw is learning carpentry in Agona, but he couldn’t go to work that day because he didn’t have money for transportation and that he was at the shore to do some work to get money for transportation the next day.
He stopped schooling when he was fourteen years. This is because his parents said they didn’t have money to help him continue his education even though public schools in Dixcov are enjoying the capitation grant and the school feeding program. Many children like “Money” have left the classroom to go fishing in order to get money for themselves and their parents.
“I stopped going to school because my mother said there is no money… I first went fishing at the age of fourteen when I stopped schooling,” money said.
Children younger than Nana Yaw also go deep fishing and spend four to five days on the sea. Some travel on the sea as far as Tema and Ivory Coast. “Some of the small children like fishing. You just missed a small boy who went fishing yesterday. He will come back in four days,” he said.
The situation is not different from neigbouring town Butre also in the Ahanta West district. Children between the ages 8 and 15 were seen going fishing whiles their mates were in class. These children were seen on their own without any elderly guidance.
One of the tour guides at Butre who gave his name Kofi told said “some of the children go fishing on therequest of their parents with the excuse that they will get money to help their parents take them to school but that is all lies.” He says the Butre River is very “dangerous for children because there are crocodiles in the water.”
Kwame Mayebi, a young man about 35 years sits at the shore and watches the children go fishing. He says some of the children run away from school to join their friends who are not in school to go fishing.
Kwame who has 3 children says education is very important to him and that he does not allow his children to go fishing. “I didn’t go to school so I want my school to go to school and get a better life in future.”
Mayebi says “some of the children go to school but they come here after school. Some of them come here to fish for domestic use and others too come to fish and sell for the money.”
The Cocoa farming communities in Ghana have similar situations, and stakeholders have had to dialogue on how curb these worrying conditions.
According to an update Report from Kuapa Kokoo (a cocoa farmers’ cooperative in Ghana), it is a common practice in Ghana for cocoa farmers to engage family labour (both young and old) in the Production of cocoa.
Adults see the involvement of children in farm work as a way of teaching them about cocoa and farm production.
In some communities, some of the children engage in farming activities at the expense of their education and physical development, because there is no school or because parents are too poor to hire other workers.
Stakeholders in the fishing industry are being silent on this alarming disorder, though the fishing industry contributes much to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country.
However,the Ghana government in its attempt to fight child labour in fishing and farming communities introduced the Capitation Grant and school feeding programme. This policy is to encourage basic school enrollment, but there are still many parents who are not enrolling their children because of ignorance or poverty.
Uncle Kweku, the chief fisherman in Dixcov says he is not aware of child labour in his area. He says he does not buoy up children going fishing.
“I don’t know about children going fishing in my area.” he says “the ones I know are teenagers who are not performing well in school and have chosen to learn the fishing trade.”
One problem with the fishing at the expense of schooling in Ghana is the poor life after fishing. Many elderly people in Dixcov and other fishing communities who have retired from fishing can’t boast of anything that can sustain their livelihood.
Uncle Kweku tells me there is nothing fishermen can rely on after fishing; he says “if you are lucky toown a boat that will work for you, then you are assured of some money”
There is nothing like a Pension Plan or Social Security for fishermen in Ghana, and so fishermen in Ghana would have to rely on savings they make, or not, they are left to their fate.
Looking at life after fishing is a more reason why governments should work hard in getting these children into the classrooms. This is because seeing these children at the fishing shore is like watching them drown at deep sea with no safety gear.
I don’t think Ghana wants to see more of retired fishermen with no future plans for their children. So government will have to put measures in place to prosecute parents and guardians who allow their wards to go fishing at the expense of their education.