Just as the United States removes Ghana from its blacklist of countries using child labour to make cocoa and gold, a newspaper has revealed how Ghanaian schoolchildren are being sent to work as bus driver’s mates.
The move by the US means that Ghana can now export those products to the international market without fear of it being rejected on the grounds that the country uses child labour to make them
Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Welfare, Antwi-Boasiako Sekyere said the US action was a result of the tremendous work to reduce the worst forms of child labour in most cocoa growing districts.
It comes as the Ghanaian Chronicle told how schoolchildren are being used as labourers in the Sekondi-Takoradi region. These children are hired as drivers' mates by 'trotro' (minibus) drivers, and they are paid about four cedi (about £2) per day.
The leader of the Ghana Private Road Transport Union said it knew about the problem, but claimed there was nothing it could do, because the children’s parents were encouraging them to do the job, because of poverty.
The twin cities of Sekondi-Takoradi is not the only part of Ghana that children are risking their lives, educations and futures to earn money as drivers' mates, said the newspaper, calling on officials to act immediately to stop the practice.
“The Chronicle cannot claim it is unaware of the economic situation in the country, but we beg to differ when poverty pushes parents to allow their children to be engaged as mates on 'trotro' vehicles, at the peril of their lives, and expense of their education,” the paper said in a comment piece.
“Four cedri a day by Ghanaian economic standards is enough to make some families push their children into such risky ventures, but have these parents sat down to think about the future of these children after the parents have died and gone?”
In the past the alleged use of child labour to produce cocoa, one of the country’s biggest exports, has brought Ghana a bad image. The country had to write a protest letter to the US to get itself removed from the executive order.
In Ghana, it is illegal for children aged under 16 to work. But about 10.9 per cent of Ghanian children aged between five and 14 work and do not go to school, according to figures from the International Labour Organisation. The number is slightly higher for boys than for girls and children in countryside areas are more likely to work than those in towns and cities.