….: The Story of Kwabena Asafo Oppong
Kwabena Asafo Oppong is a 12-year old boy who lives with his grandmother in a deprived area of Berekuso, a peri-urban community in the Akuapem South District. Born to a mother who used to hawk in the city, he was brought to his 63-year old grandmother when his biological mother suddenly passed away when Kwabena was 6 years old, with no information about his biological father. At age 8, Kwabena was not enrolled in school and was often found loitering around the community where he lives with his grandmother. Being a poor old lady, the grandmother could hardly afford two square meals daily for Kwabena and so he was forced into child labour by fetching water or cleaning services for food vendors in the area who in turn gave him food to eat. He was seen as neglected as he wore tattered clothes and was always bare-footed.
The then 8-year old Kwabena had a friend called Yaw Mensah who was enrolled in a nearby private basic school. As soon as Yaw closes from school, Kwabena will run to meet him and then help him carry his school bag to his house. He would come back again later in the evening when Yaw will be doing his homework at his compound, and will hang around him looking at what Yaw was writing. This continued for quite a long term until Yaw’s father (Mr Ayeson) noticed that Kwabena really has interest in learning. He traced Kwabena to her grandmother to find out why he was not enrolled in school at the age of almost 10. The grandmother explained to Mr Ayeson that she wouldn’t be able to afford school fees, daily feeding cost, uniforms and books that Kwabena will need to be admitted at the nearby basic private school.
Mr Ayeson took the opportunity to educate Kwabena’s grandmother, informing her that the local D/A Primary School was not too far from where she lives, and that when Kwabena is enrolled in this public basic school, he would not be required to pay any school fees. In addition, he will be fed at school through the School Feeding Programme, and also the Social Welfare could support Kwabena with school uniforms including shoes and school bag. Few days later, Mr Ayeson led Kwabena and her grandmother to the Social Welfare office to talk to them about the plight of Kwabena. Thankfully, the Social Welfare took the matter seriously and supported the grandmother to enrol Kwabena in the local D/A Primary School at the age of 10. Also, the Social Welfare office enrolled Kwabena’s grandmother on LEAP (Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty) so she could provide additional support at home for Kwabena.
Four years on, Kwabena is now a happy school boy with big aspirations. According to his teachers, he demonstrates lots of potentials, and enjoys reading. A local NGO partnering with the Ashesi University has formed a ‘READ AND WRITE’ club in the community. Fortunately, Kwabena was supported to join the club, which aims at helping its members to achieve excellent reading and writing skills. The future could only be bright and exciting for Kwabena and perhaps his aged grandmother, who is so thankful to Mr. Ayeson for showing her the ways that have brought joy to them as well as improvement in their daily life situation.
Ghana has been implementing a number of social protection programmes with the ultimate objective of breaking the cycle of poverty that surrounds generations of vulnerable groups in the country. These efforts are commendable considering social protection has been the backbone of improved standard of living in the developed countries. While these programmes makes serious strides at targeting, the story of Kwabena and her grandmother as narrated above suggests access to easily comprehensible information on these social protection programmes remains a challenge to many vulnerable groups that the programmes seek to help. Awareness-raising on social protection programmes being implemented by the State should be intensified and sustained through channels accessible to many of these vulnerable groups. These channels include churches/mosques and community forums where many vulnerable groups can be reached with education on current social protection programmes being implemented by the State. Accessible information must also include the Beneficiary Charter of rights and responsibilities of these programmes. Effective information dissemination and improvements in delivery of social protection programmes in Ghana will eventually lead us to our goal of breaking the cycle of poverty that confronts many of the citizens of this country.
The Writer is Auberon Jeleel Odoom, the National Co-ordinator of Inclusion Ghana, University of Pretoria. Telephone: +233302243291 / +233208151523; Email: email@example.com; Website: www.inclusion-ghana.org