“These children are our future leaders” is one of the most popular quotes heard during the children’s programs. The above has been quoted by politicians, traditional leaders, and other opinion leaders on campaign platforms, during swearing-in ceremonies, in coronation addresses, and during events and programs organized for these future leaders.
Knowing these children are the future leaders of a nation, one would expect much investment to be made towards their growth and development but that is not the case for all children. So, the next time you hear anyone make that statement, kindly ask whether it is applicable to all or some children.
In my opinion, our attitudes and actions prove that this statement is reserved for some children, mostly those privileged to have affluent parents or guardians. These children are likely to grow and hold higher leadership positions and get good jobs. For those who find themselves in cities, out of luck, a lot still have a better chance of joining the children of the affluent. Even if they don’t get political positions or better jobs, they are likely to be well educated and join the network of those with authority.
If you are however unfortunate to be born in one of the deprived communities in Ghana, your chances of enjoying any of the above become so limited. How these poor vulnerable children are treated by the state can be compared with a stepchild living with a wicked step-mum/dad and his/her biological children. Even though fed from the same pocket, the biological children get everything whilst the stepchild virtually has to beg to survive.
The Plight Of The Vulnerable
I have not traveled the world like others but the work I do has taken me to a lot of the most deprived communities in Ghana. Sad as it may sound, it appears that the children in these vulnerable communities form the majority of the future generations of leaders who have been forgotten; either deliberately or unintentionally. In my daily work, I meet children who give you a clear picture of what abject poverty would look like if it were human.
Child Labour is still rife
In these deprived communities, child labor is a “normal” phenomenon. Children in these villages have to go fishing with their parents before they are allowed to go to school. During harvesting seasons, these children are required to be on the farm. In most instances, the children have to seek their own permission or just absent themselves from school without any permission. When the parents want to be “respectful”, they go to these schools and seek permission to take their “own children” to school.
Does Government Care Enough?
Though there is a ministry to protect children and other vulnerable people yet children are sold and trafficked in these villages on a daily basis. This phenomenon is known to the general public, yet, because these victims are not directly related to those in authority, no one cares. It has also been alleged that for cultural purposes, some are abused by these same people in authority who are to protect these victims, but sadly, once the international media doesn’t capture it, it’s normal.
I have seen a child who looked tired and hungry but had to walk over 3km to school. Strange as it may seem, I see a lot of them almost every day. The painful aspect is that upon interaction with these children, you get to know that a lot of them are very brilliant, and would excel if they were given the same privileges given to the selected few.
State of Living for Children, Our Future Leaders
Unfortunately, over 60% of these children in these deprived areas go to school either barefooted or partially naked; with no exercise books, pencils, or pen to write. In this era that Artificial Intelligence is has taken over the world, over 90% of these children have never seen any component of a computer before, not to think of touching it. In the era of social distancing, online teaching and learning have become the order of the day. What then happens to these underprivileged children who do not have access to smartphones, computers, and telecommunication network?
My heart bleeds anytime I see these children, who happen to be part of the generation our future depends on. What crime did these children commit? These children have committed no crime, aside from being born to poor parents in a deprived rural area; a decision they did not take part in making. I often ask myself, “how are these children going to make it in life?” Why should we sit unconcerned and watch these beautiful innocent souls suffer?
Education for Children
Education is the key to success, so they say. In this regard, children should have an environment conducive enough to enhance their mental development. Unfortunately, in these rural communities, the same cannot be said for these children. In these villages, the number of children in one classroom may be more than any gathering you can think of. How many children do you expect to be in a combined classroom of KG1-Class 3? What of p4-p6? I will leave you to do the calculations.
Are you wondering why such numbers are in the same class? It’s simply because most of these schools are dilapidated mud structures (mostly two classrooms) with dwarf walls, built by communities. In some areas the communities have been able to build more structures, teachers are also refusing postings to such schools. So, the obvious choice is to combine classes in order to provide “some sort” of education for these children.
The System or Teachers?
But do you blame the teachers? which teacher would prefer to work in a deprived community with no light and potable water; with motorbikes as the only means of transport? Which teacher will work in an area he needs to cross a river; after a long journey on a bike? Which teacher would like to be at a place he/she gets trapped whenever there’s a heavy downpour?
Education amidst COVID-19
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, education has been on how to wash our hands under running water, social distancing, the use of sanitizer, and face mask. You and I know very well that the sanitizers and face masks are out in “our” situation so I will focus on handwashing. In-as-much-as these strategies are helpful and can be implemented, I must say with conviction that these may be difficult to implement in these deprived areas. Am I being a pessimist? No! I’m just stating the realities that a lot of people may not know or deliberately neglecting. In these rural communities, settlers sometimes walk over 3 kilometers to get water that’s not even potable. Are you sure households are going to allow these children to use that water to wash their hands “anyhow”?
Our Future Leaders are Still Vulnerable to Diseases
In terms of health, only God protects these children from diseases that kill many children in urban centers. This is a place where even pregnant women receive care on benches, and when in labor, they have to travel long distances on motorbikes to the nearest CHPS facility. After delivery, the innocent child, together with his/her mum, is transported back to the village on the same motorbikes on bad roads and in some cases, on footpaths.
Aside from these places not having standard health facilities, the numbers too are woefully inadequate! Children in these deprived communities die from snake bites, cholera, malnutrition, and other preventable diseases but it appears they are left to their fate…No one cares!!
So, you see, the next time economic indicators, data, and figures are given to portray that all is well, kindly let them know Ghana isn’t the urban centers only. Let them know there are some children and grandchildren who are in dire straits and need help urgently. These children are still part of future leaders even though they have been forgotten.
Even if these vulnerable ones are stepchildren, My humble appeal is that they are still Ghanaian children, and can grow to contribute in diverse ways towards the socio-economic development of Ghana, Please do not ignore them! Occasionally, kindly pass by and check on these vulnerable ones because regardless of the location, every child has a lot of potentials that can make Ghana a great nation.