Rising Up: Getting Ghanaian children out of work and into school

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One out of every five children in Ghana are out of school and working in jobs that are often strenuous and dangerous to their health and safety. That’s 1.9 million Ghanaian children, some as young as eight years old -- who are being denied their rights to learn and grow.

The COVID-19 crisis has closed schools across the world, and Ghana is no exception. But with schools shuttered, there’s a greater risk than ever for Ghanaian children that they will be pressured to work. Child labourers rarely go back to school once they begin work.

Since 2016, we have been working to both stop child labour in Ghana and to help children who are trying to leave it to return to school -- their best chance for something more than sharecropping.

1.9 million children are out of school because of child labour in Ghana.

The majority of child labourers in Ghana work in agriculture, often on cocoa farms where they harvest pods by hand for export. Ghana is one of the world’s biggest producers of cocoa.

Agriculture is one of the deadliest fields of employment for children worldwide. According to the International Labor Organization, “agriculture is one of the three most dangerous sectors in terms of work-related fatalities, non-fatal accidents and occupational diseases,” for children who are working.

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Child labour is one of the hardest issues Right To Play works on. It sits at the intersection of poverty, diminished expectations, and systemic failures that come together to limit children’s futures and endanger their lives. Our work focuses on addressing both the individual and systemic aspects of the problem.

We are working with the Government of Canada, the Government of Ghana, and local authorities to stop child labour in Ghana. We’ve been able to reach nearly 25,000 children in Ghana with programs that support children to leave work, and to strengthen community supports to prevent more children from going into work.

Our results in Ghana: 25,000 children and 697 teachers working together to stop child labour.

Since 2016, we have trained 697 teachers working in remote communities where child labour is particularly prevalent to help these children return to school. Completing even just their primary education opens up opportunities for them that go far beyond agricultural labour.

Our trained coaches, teachers and child rights clubs (which are composed of other children who have left child labour behind) seek out children working in agriculture and educate them about their rights. We help them leave child labour and return to school, and to catch up on missed lessons and grades using play-based programs that accelerate their learning. Completing even just their primary education opens up opportunities beyond subsistence farming and indentured servitude.

We Established 121 Community Child Protection Committees working to report and stop child labour in local villages.

Right To Play also works with parents and village authorities to keep children from returning to work once they have left. We build systems at the village and district level to reduce the need for child labour and to report individuals who are disobeying the law by continuing to exploit children. Ghana is banning more and more forms of child labour.

We have formed 121 Community Child Protection Committees that bring children, teachers, parents and local officials together to help enforce Ghana’s laws against child labour locally. These committees help parents in desperate situations to figure out ways to avoid sending their children out to work. They also reportindividuals who employ child labour and perpetrate the abuses that come with it.

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Strengthening Ghanaian children’s ability to refuse exploitative labour and get them back to school is critical. Education will empower them to create a brighter future for themselves and their families, one that is not limited by the lost opportunities and risks of dangerous work. No child should be forced to give up their education for a job.

In 2018, Right To Play launched the Gender Responsive Education and Transformation (GREAT) program with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada. Active in three countries, Ghana, Mozambique and Rwanda, GREAT uses Right To Play's play-based learning approach to remove barriers to education, especially for girls, and to build teacher capacity to improve learning outcomes.