Street begging in the Bolgatanga township, the Regional Capital of the Upper East, has become extensive as children as young as seven years are seen on most of the roads asking for money from pedestrians and commuters.
Most of the children who cannot speak any local language or English are said to have come from Niger and are found in various sections of the town roads in groups.
They approach their potential benefactors and mention GHC1.00, while pointing to their mouths and holding their stomachs to indicate their need.
Unlike in the past where some Ghanaian children used to help people with disabilities, mostly visually impaired individuals to beg, the Nigerien children have now taken over the whole business of begging and are supervised by their mothers and relatives who are usually seen sitting under the traffic poles.
The Ghana News Agency on Saturday observed that along the Bolgatanga-Navrongo road, there were more than twenty children comprising both genders, while a woman who was previously breastfeeding a child under one of the traffic poles stood up and repositioned the children who at the time gathered and were playing.
Motorist and Pedestrians are also harassed by these children who expose themselves to the danger of road accidents.
Karim Ishawu, a boy of about 10 years, one of the child beggars yet to be enrolled in school, said motorists and pedestrians had more sympathy on them than their mothers as some complained that their mothers could work.
“My Mother brought me to Ghana from Niger to help beg, so that they will use that money to take me to school, but she is normally sitting because some of the motorist complained that she is fit to work and yet resort to begging”
Madam Sadia, a mother of four who was seen directing the child beggars, said she had been unsuccessful in various kinds of businesses she handled and being widowed, she had no one to help her, thus she resorted to beg on the street with her children.
She added that, “being on the road is risky, just days ago a motor bike hit and broke a child’s leg here and I have since not seen him and the mother, though this scares me I have no other option to feed my children”.
Mrs Georgina Aberese-Ako, the Regional Director of the Department of Children, said the act of child begging especially foreigners was worrisome and stakeholders in child protection spearheaded by the Department of Social Welfare was working to find a solution to the menace.
“Whether they have the right to stay in Ghana or not is a matter of security, but what I know is that Niger is part of ECOWAS and there is this relationship of free movement, however, the activity they are engaged in is illegal,” she added.
Begging is illegal in the laws of Ghana, under the Beggars and Destitute Act 1969 (NLCD 392), Section 2(1) which provides the right for Police Officers to arrest any individual found begging, wandering or placing themselves in any premises for the purpose of begging without warrant.