Child beggars seem to be on an increase in some major cities in Ghana with many believing that parents who are lazy bring these children to the streets to beg for alms.
But Anas Aremeyaw Anas’ latest documentary, ‘Chained to Begging’ reveals that majority of these children are from Niger brought into the country after promises are made to their parents that they would be put in schools.
Nasarat and Nafiratu are two such children who have been begging on the streets of Kumasi for the past one year.
The children say they were brought to Ghana by their brother who has made them believe he sends some of the money they make to their parents back home.
The two who go by the names Mariam and Aisha in Ghana, tell Anas they want to go back to their country because they were happier there.
Other children the journalist and his team speak with share the stories of how they were taken from their parents in Niger with the promise of being put in school in Ghana only to end up on the streets begging.
The money they make at the end of the day goes to their masters who determine how to spend it.
One child trafficker reveals that they got some of the children from Mallams who are supposed to be taking care of them when they are brought to Islamic schools (Madrasa) in the country.
“There are children who are brought to the Madrasa (Islamic school) to the Mallams. They all live in the house of the Mallam. They don’t really have any way to feed themselves, so they beg…. They are available, and I know all of the madrasas where they are,” he says.
He explains how they get the children across the borders without hassle from officers.
“When we get to the border where the officers ask questions, we get a motorbike and pay some money then we cross the border without any questions. The officers don’t stop us when we are on the motorbike. But when we are on the bus they would ask all of us to alight for search and questions.”
He adds that there are places where they just have to give some people GH¢5 so they can cross.
“If I should get to Lome I know them, if we should go to Togo, I know someone there who help us to cross the border. Some of the questions they ask are not actually difficult but the moment they ask, we just give them GH¢5.”
A statement released by OAfrica on the documentary said child begging is one of the worst forms of child labour which keeps children out of school.
It also separates children from their families while exposing them to hazardous living conditions and dangers such as rape, ill health and motor accidents, it added.
“In seeking a holistic approach to dealing with this complex trans-border situation, we will need to involve Immigration, Social Welfare, the various Ministries and Embassies and the public. The public are urged to report all children on the street and to stop giving to child beggars. We call for police and law enforcement agencies to arrest the traffickers,” it added.
“Giving child beggars money does not help the children because the money goes to their “masters” and does not serve the wellbeing of these vulnerable and innocent children. In fact, it only makes the industry bigger with more street children and more attractive and lucrative for traffickers. If we want to STOP child begging in Ghana then we have to STOP giving money to the children on the street. This will help prevent additional children being recruited as child beggars.
With funding support from the European Union, OAfrica in collaboration with Tiger Eye PI and The Livingstone Foundation calls on us all to help stop child begging.
Find the full statement below