A disturbing system of abuse has been uncovered by Ultimate News’ Eliasu Tanko at Makango in the East Gonja district of the Northern region where little boys are forced into labour and female teenagers recognize having sex as recreation.
Nearly half of the children in the community of about Nine Thousand (9,000) poor farmers and nomadic fishermen are engaged in different forms of labour including carrying loads into canoes and boats and door to door hawking of ingredients.
Makango is one of the 52 VRA resettlement towns and under authority of the Kpembewura of the Gonja Kingdom.
Today, the community serves as the largest internal revenue earner to local authority coffers following the economic activities on the Volta Lake.
However, many residents believe the emergence of economic activities along the lake some centuries ago has crumbled and broken the community where people now live on less than ¢2 a day.
There are bad roads and collapsing health service. Bad school structures, no good drinking water and low communication access. Residents are sharply divided along chieftaincy and religious lines.
Children as young as 9 and 13 were spotted at the river side carrying goods and washing motorbikes of fishmongers and merchants travelling from the North to Akosombo, Yeji, Ejura, Kumasi and Accra.
Everyday, these children are forced to abandon classrooms and troop to the lakeside to struggle for an ends meet.
Faisal Musah, 10, has been working for two years as a potter. He dropped out of school to look for money when his father couldn’t buy him a shoe. He carries goods into ferries, boats and canoes and saves the stipends with his mother.
He said his mother depends on his little earnings to cook meal for the household including his two senior brothers who are also out of school.
Faisal earns ¢5 on a good day and said he wished to be back in school but was worried no one in the area has made it in life through going to school.
Jamal Awal, 12, was seven when he started dropping school and going to the lakeside to clean vehicles and motorcycles. He argued he was still a schoolchild but couldn’t remember the last time he went to school.
His father is a farmer and couldn’t cater for his senior siblings so he decided to fend for himself. His father told him to go and work at river banks.
These are just two of the many distressed and confused children forced into labour by their parents and guardians. Poverty is at a dangerous level and people there live with fewer livelihood options though it has the largest market in the district – not even Salaga’s.
There have been no intervention by parents or chiefs and the people feel neglected by the local assembly.
Assembly member of the area, Osman Awudu Gaani, lamented desperately at rate which children drop out of school in the community and rehashed calls for immediate government intervention.
He blamed the district assembly of neglecting the people and doing little to improve their lives.
“We feel neglected because the district is not concentrating on the town. They are only concentrating on Salaga township meanwhile when they come and assist us, they can make a lot of revenue because we have what it takes to make revenue: but the district is not helping at all”, Gaani said raising further concerns over increasing teenage pregnancy.