The goal of education is not to increase the amount of knowledge but to create the possibilities for a child to invent and discover, to create men who are capable of doing new things (Jean Piaget)
The world stood awake today to a global call of International Day of Street Children. This was offered to the world some 8 years ago by the world largest body, the United Nations. It is understood that every 12th day of April, children who have no home today and shall have no possibility of inventions and discoveries in any sanctioned state’s institutions tomorrow and thereafter, would have voice and voices for the world to hear them. In Ghana the State proscribed streetism decades ago with the weapon of the Beggars and Destitute Act, 1969.
On January 7, 1992 the State sealed this proscription via Articles 25 (1)(a) and 38 (2) of the Constitution. Indeed Article 14 (1)(e) provides further justification to this proscription. The Children’s Act, 1998 (Act 560) sets light over darkness and the Education Act, 2008 as amended, finally consumes every form of darkness over the lives of children born in Ghana.
On this day, the world called the International Day for Street Children, this Center shall submit that our State has blessed our children with the highest policy to avoid the curses of streetism but successive governments have worked tirelessly to restore the darkness of curses of streetism.
This is how the state bestows this blessings on the children of the land against streetism through the instrument of education. The framers of the 1992 Constitution provides for the security and guarantee of this right in Article 25, Clause (1) Sub-clause (a) of the 1992 Constitution. This provision reads;
- All persons shall have the right to equal educational opportunities and facilities and with a view to achieving the full realization of that right,
- Basic education shall be free, compulsory and available to all.
Where Basic Education Level is provided for in Section 1(2) of the Education Act, 2008 as amended by Education (Amendment) Act, 2010 as follows;
- The basic level of education shall consist of
- Two years kindergarten
- Six years of primary
- Three years of junior high school.
Per the above provisions every child has a right to basic education. Emphatically, the right to free and compulsory basic education. This right as provided for in the Constitution, imposes a duty on our government, to ensure that all children are educated as provided for in Article 38 Clause (2) of the 1992 constitutions. This provision reads;
The Government shall, within two years after Parliament first meets after the coming into force of this Constitution, draw up a programme for implementation within the following ten years, for the provision of free compulsory and universal basic education.
The Government in living up to her constitutional duty has further been clothed with the power to restrict the personal liberties of children for the sole purpose of education. That is what Article 14 (1)(e) provides thus:
Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of personal liberty except in the following cases and in accordance with procedure permitted by law:
(e) for the purpose of education or welfare of a person who has not attained the age of eighteen years….
The Government started her curses by failing to act within two years after Parliament first met on January 7, 1993. Nonetheless the State restored that hope by ensuring the Government acted and so by 1996, the Free Universal Basic Education, FCUBE, programme was launched. By the operation of the Constitutional 10-year injunction, by 2005/2006, no child in Ghana ought to be outside the school walls. Within the meaning of article 14 clause 1 sub-clause (e), children have no right to decide their personal liberties. The Government has the right to restrict their movement for the purposes of being in school. That is the meaning of compulsory.
The issue is that all successive governments following the enforcement of the 1992 constitution have failed to implement the above provision in providing free, compulsory and universal basic education to all children. They have woefully failed in enforcing the compulsory aspect of the education injuncted them by the Constitution. As a result, of their inaction, our children are on the streets, instead of being in the classrooms; they are working and engaging in perilous activities daily at the expense of their bright future of inventing, discovering and doing new things for their motherland.
It is sad enough for a nation, which has failed its constitutional duty, to tag her children as “Street Children” …!!! Who is to blame, especially when our own laws namely The Children Act, 1998 (Act 560) sets the minimum age for light work at 13years and hazardous work at 18 years. However, the opposite is true that most often than not we see children below these ages engaged in hazardous work in the middle of highways and major roads including begging, selling, wiping windscreen of cars and even inhaling fumes from vehicle exhaust.
We have to highlight that Begging as an activity is an offence under our laws Section 2 Subsection 1 (a) and (b) of the Beggars and Destitute Act, 1969. This reads:
- A police officer may arrest without warrant
- A person who is found begging
- A person wandering, or
- A person who is in any premise or place for the purpose of begging.
The above law creates an exception for children. Thus, children who beg commit no offence. It is obvious that there would have been no street children on our streets if the Police Service were complying with the law and arresting all parents, district chief executives, and sector ministers who put and or allow these children in the street.
The emphasis is place with, Section 4 of Act 778 as Amended which law provides for the role of the District Assembly Social Welfare especially where a child fails to go to school. This section reads;
Where a Child does not attend a course of instruction in compliance with subsection (1) the parent shall, in the first instance, appear before the social welfare committee of the District Assembly for the Appropriate action.
And Section 1 of Act 778 as Amended reads;
- A child who has attained school going age shall, at the basic level, attend a course of instruction as laid down by the Minister in a school recognized for that purpose by the Minister.
The Center on a day like this shall say, let there be light over the lives of these children.
Let the laws stated by the Beggars and Destitute Act work.
Let there be the workings of the constitutional provisions stated herein.
And above all let the Children’s Act work and the Education Act as amended too. Let the State’s blessing of compulsory free basic education be felt by every child born in Ghana.
Let this light shine away the governmental curses of streetism in the lives of children.
But if need be, the State must be prepared to effect the needed arrests: The Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Local Government and Education for allowing our children in the streets begging and/or working instead of being within the walls of schools receiving instructions.
Let there be the Blessings of Education to the Exclusion of Curses of Streetism.
We so submit to the Nation Ghana.
God Bless our homeland Ghana and make us Great and Strong.