African business, politics and lifestyle
Getting children into school in Ghana
One woman in the capital, Accra, is trying to persuade working kids to give up their jobs and go to school instead.
Two little girls, 11-year-old Agnes and 13-year-old Hannah, spend their days breaking stones at the Gbaawe stone quarry a short distance outside Accra.
Their mother, 38-year-old Afua Mansah, has seven children and no husband, and the stones that Hannah and Agnes break into tiny pieces are added to her own and then sold to construction companies.
Asked whether she would like to attend school, Agnes told Reuters Africa Journal: “Yes I will stop breaking stones and come to school. I want to be a hairdresser when I grow up.”
Ghana’s constitution forbids children under 15 from working, but you wouldn’t know it looking at the Gbaawe quarry. That’s why Lila Macqueen Djaba visits the quarry whenever she can. The 28-year-old runs a school funded by private sponsors and her aim is to get as many Ghanaian children as possible out of employment and back into the classroom.
Primary education is free in Ghana but parents have to buy school uniforms and books. At Lila’s school, all the learning materials are paid for, and there is even money to send some children to private schools once their level is advanced enough.
The school started with two children four years ago. Today, more than 100 pupils attend seven hours of classes every day. The teachers are all volunteers taking time out of their day jobs to give something back.
Lila meanwhile needs to raise cash to keep her school going. She is helped by sponsors from Ghana, the United States and Europe and once they agree to support the school, they get a necklace or waist chain made of beads by Lila and the children as a token of appreciation.
But Lila’s project is still too small to make a real impact and the country faces a big task in getting its children into school.
The streets of Accra swarm with children trying to make a sale to passing motorists. The youngsters are the human face of a survey that has found that 20 percent of Ghana’s children aged between 7 and 14 work for a living — that’s 1.2 million children in the country as a whole.