My father attempted using me for sakawa: the story of a street child

He told me his name in English but that was about how far he could express himself in the Queen’s language, ‘my name is Odei kweku Samuel’ and continues the rest of the conversation in Twi.

Fourteen (14) year old Samuel lives in the streets of the business district of Accra. He lives together with a couple of friends, also street children. Some are his age mates, others older than him and some younger.    

I came across them in a lawn near the National theatre. They had made a fire with some chips of blocks and firewood, and cooking some stew. As to what kind of stew they were preparing for their lunch, they would be the best to tell.

Samuel and his friends were seen happily playing in the lawn, hopping onto trees and enjoying the breeze around.

After spending some time to familiarise myself with them, I found out Samuel had an interesting story to tell about how he ended up on the streets.

I drew closer to him and tried to probe into his life. I first of all asked him where he lives; ‘I live in this garden’ he replied in the local language. Seeing no building close (on the lawn), I asked him where exactly.  Then he told me they usually spend their day in the gardens: cook and play there. In the evening they move to Okaishie to sleep.

I enquired whether they have homes at Okaishie and he confessed ‘we sleep in front of stalls.’

I was led to ask where his parents were.
He told me ‘they are here in Accra’. But certainly he doesn’t live with them.

The street boy narrated how the biological mother drove him away after he had travelled all the way from the Ashanti Region to join her in Accra. He would have loved to take shelter at his father’s abode, but unfortunately he did not know where he lived.

The next was to wonder how he feeds. I was baffled to discover that he actually makes a living by scavenging for leftover foods while he roams at lorry station.

I moved on to my next question as to whether he goes to school. I was surprised when he answered in the affirmative, but interestingly he did not know the name of the school. However, he said he was in class 2.

I was in awe as to how a street child could afford to pay school fees to enable him remain in school. My awe was short-lived as I found out Samuel and other street children who are interested in some form of education are beneficiaries of Kinder Paradise – a day center that shelters and offers some sort of education to street children during the day.

Samuel recounted to me how he used to deal in scrap metal.

‘I came to Accra in search of my parents but my mother did not want anything to do with me and I could not locate my father so I resorted to dealing in scrap metal to help me cater for myself.’

 He said he stopped dealing in scrap metal after he fell ill, and gave his life up to the streets.

Samuel disclosed an ordeal he went through at the hands of his father.

 ‘When I was little my father took me to a mallam to use me for money rituals (sakawa) but it did not turnout well.  I talk to myself and sometimes something tells me to go and steal as a result of the failure of the attempt.’

Samuel Odei Kweku (middle) interacting with his fellow street children

In spite of the experience he encountered with the father, interestingly, Samuel said he would prefer living with his father to his mother. He claimed his mother does not treat him well; she embarrasses him anytime he makes an attempt to go to her.

‘She embarrasses me in public. She always refers me to how my father wanted to use me for money rituals and failed,’ he said dejectedly.

These are claims made by Samuel. As to whether they are true or false, the fact still remains – he is a street child. His parents are alive yet he does not get to enjoy any parental care, unnaturally denying him of his right as a childhood. 

Samuel is just one of the many children on the streets who have even worse stories as to how they ended on the streets.

Street children engage in all sorts of activities just to eke out a living.  The tales of street children have been told over the years long, but measures taken to curb it has yielded very little result. The question, however, still remains: has enough been done by stakeholders?  

Although there is the existence of the Children’s Act, many people don’t know about it. The Act is supposed to be binding on all, yet most offenders outwit the system and are therefore not held accountable by the state. Activists have accused authorities of lackadaisically prosecuting parents who shirk their responsibility.

The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MGCSP), formerly Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs (MWCA), is responsible for the formulation of policies that deal with women and children-related issues.

The ministry and other organizations that have the development of children at heart are being called upon to come to the aid of street children and children whose rights are being infringed upon.

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