The streets of Accra are filled with lots of beggars who can be found in traffic jams, seeking funds from passengers, drivers, riders and pedestrians every day. Most prominent among these beggars are people living with various disabilities such as blindness or eye problems, amputated legs or arms, crippled legs, etc.
These physically-challenged people often parade the streets with helpers who aid them in their movements and begging. Unfortunately, most of the helpers seen with these people are children who are of school-going age. It is very common to see children holding the hands of blind people and helping them move from vehicle to vehicle in traffic jams, or children pushing wheelchairs in traffic jams to help move a crippled relative around.
Aside from seeing them on the streets, it is also very common to see them in the marketplaces helping physically-challenged relatives move around and beg for money. People usually complain of these beggars being a nuisance, but the well-being of the children accompanying them has often been ignored by the general public.
Hours which are meant to be spent in the classroom learning valuable knowledge are spent in the sun roaming with physically-challenged relatives. In the face of impending danger, these relatives can do little to nothing to protect them. How will a blind person protect a child from a vehicle which has lost the use of its brakes on a busy street?
Since these children have access to no academic knowledge or vocational skill to rely on when they grow a bit older, the probability and temptation to turn to a life of crime to survive increases. These ‘street’ children are a subtle factor in the increase in prostitution, drug abuse and rape cases in our urban areas. They are either the perpetuators of these acts or the victims.
These children are also exposed to all kinds of diseases after being in the sun throughout the day and enduring the stench from filthy gutters that are by the roadsides. Diseases like malaria, cholera, diarrhea, sexually-transmitted diseases, etc. can easily be contracted by these children, and if care is not taken, they can lose their lives.
With this situation, both the citizens and the government need to come together and work on it as these children are a part of our future, and their safety mirrors the safety of our society.
>>>the writer is a student at the Ghana Institute of Journalism. She can be reached on [email protected]