Samuel Denteh is a nurse and has been with the locals since 2014. He had never witnessed children engaging in fishing with their parents. For him, he had seen some of the children using the boat on the water to swim but not at the deepest side, emphasizing that, “they don’t even have the strength to embark on fishing expeditions.”
One disturbing issue that Denteh said he is worried about, as a health officer, is that the people do not have good health facilities, yet young women get pregnant at all time, making their lives difficult and education a risky.
He revealed that young girls of ages of 14-15 got pregnant and have been receiving ante-natal-care services from him, as they relied on traditional birth attendants during labour. For him, what is needed are good health and education facilities to stop the people from risking their children’s lives to cross the lake to the mainland for healthcare and schooling purposes.
In the considered view of Denteh, if such facilities are provided, he has the belief that the children will not be seen on the lake risking to cross for schooling, asking, “so how often are they (NGOs) going to be making arrests and can they make arrests of all children on the islands?”
Joseph Ayivor, 21, is a student of the South Dayi Community Day Senior High School (SHS) at Dzemani, one of the communities on the banks of the Volta Lake where the fisher-folks trade their nets and fishes.
He said swimming is a basic skill every child in the community must acquire through their parents or adult siblings to be able to survive as part of upbringing challenges as a child. He doesn’t see their adventurous life as child labour, but rather courage to be able to withstand difficulties in time of needs and calamity.
Pricilla Akorfa, 17, is a student of the Battor Senior High School in the North Tongu District in the Volta Region, but comes during vacation. For her, that is where she was brought up before continuing her education at Battor and does not consider the way she was brought up as child labour.
Madam Emefa Ahorlu, 34, is a farmer, together with her husband, Etsey Ahorlu. They have three children of ages 14, seven and five years. The first born is living with a relative and schooling at Dzemani community on the shores of the Volta Lake in the South Dayi District, while the other two live with them on the island and attend school at the Nyakuikope.
She said, they go to the farm with their children when they are on vacation. According to her, leaving their children behind at home is very risky and dangerous, as they could easily be attacked by wild animals like snakes, adding that, even in the farms, they have to keep an eye. The children, she noted, could help them in many ways, including fetching water, gathering firewood or repelling birds in the rice farm.
A teacher who identified himself as Emmanuel Vuafotor lives in the Nyakuikope community and has been teaching there for the past four years. For him, even though the community is blessed with both primary and JHS, there are not enough teachers to teach the over 300 pupils.
According to him, teachers posted to the communities do not show up and those that reported do not also stay beyond a term, noting that he, together with other three teachers, two of them being GES trained teachers, and two community assistant teachers, handle the primary school.
Vuafotor lamented how he struggles to handle Class Four and Six, while his colleagues also teach the other classes, as well as the JHS, which has no teacher.
He told The Republic, the people on the islands need help, not trauma, for his four years being with the people, he felt their abject poverty and known their plight,tradition and way of living.
One of the parents of the detained children (name withheld) said, the action of the NGO by taking away his biological child from him is the highest injustice ever, stating, “I cannot sleep since my son was taken away.”
In his view, “every child has to be brought up by his or her parents in a particular way in line with their tradition and sources of survival,” and he sees nothing wrong with children helping their parents.
When the Member of Parliament (MP), Ms Betty Krosbi Mensah, was contacted for her comments, she said the people in the over 200 island communities do not have any alternative, and they have been there for ages and current adults all grew up in the same communities through same way.
According to her, more often than not the residents appeal for government to come to their aid and put up good structures to provide quality education in their communities.
She said, what should be of concern was for the NGOs to rather be interested in helping the communities to get schools and teachers and taking away their children whom they suffered to nurture, without any form of consultation and investigations.
Additionally, the people, she stated, need security protection, as some Fulani herdsmen often attack and kill some of their community members, rape women and maltreat children in farmlands while grazing their cattle.
The menace of the Fulani, the MP said, is becoming rampant in the island communities, and parents can no longer leave their children home and go to farm without being harm by the herdsmen or experience snakebite.
She holds the view that, “it is a matter of survival in the midst of abject poverty and total neglect, with no access to water, education, health and markets.”
She said, any NGO interested in the welfare of the people on the islands should approach the opinion leaders, the chiefs, assembly members, as well as herself, being their representative in parliament, on every development issue.
The absence of security, especially police, Hon Betty added, is affecting the people on the islands free movement, but admitted the police are poorly-equipped as they do not have marine equipment to make any arrest on the waters.
For her, their doors are open to individuals and every organization to alleviate the plight of the people and NGOs are welcome.
In the midst of the foregoing matters on child labour at Afram Plains North, The Republic has found out that, the issues are between scrambling for survival and respecting the laws of Ghana to live.
Though they appeared very disturbed over the matter, the locals remained helpless and are therefore appealing to their Member of Parliament (MP) to take their plight to parliament for further deliberation.
For them, they are Ghanaians and also deserve a better living. They want their children to be with them and learn their tradition for their own future, while pursuing higher education at the mainland.
They are not against the NGO and its work if there are some bad people using children to perform adults work, but will at the mean time want the NGO to do its proper investigation before embarking on such action.
Almost all the locals interviewed told me they tried to improve their welfare bytaking their children across to the mainland for education, while teaching them how to build their future in farming should they become unable to further education to gain meaning employment.
For them, they all have gone through such experiences as the children are going through, but never saw such as hazardous work. At a tender age, one is able and fearless to learn swimming but will be fearful and heavy to practice how to swim at old age.
From the experience by this reporter, poverty in Afram Plains Islands is a reflection of the vital role of the state in the development process. Only through proper attention from the district, and supervision from the central government, can letchange come to the impoverished island communities.
Additionally, after three days on these remote island communities, we found out there was a growing reality that without urgent help, the very lives and culture of the people living on the islands spread across the Afram Plains will never see any form of modern development if government continues to abandon them to their fate.
While on the lake, it was evidently clear the negative effect of climate change – thenatural environment was not much green as expected, the lake water has run down drastically making the islands reserves become wider and bigger.