• All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Unheard Voices – Crying From Within!

You meet them at the bus terminals, on the streets, in the markets and places that people converge, stretching their hands to beg for alms.

They are the destitute of big cities and towns - the majority of whom are people with disabilities.

Some people give to them out of sympathy, others out of religious obligation. Yet there are some who wouldn’t offer any assistance because they believe people with disabilities who beg on the streets are simply lazy.

A closer look at the situation reveals more.

The Real Situation

The footbridge near the Kumasi Railway Terminal is usually a very busy area. People easily make their way from the Adum area to Fanti New Town. Perhaps the large volume of patrons on the bridge makes the area attractive to beggars.

43 year-old Kwadwo Boakye is one of such beggars. He is a native of Atwima Adumasa in the Atwima Kwawoma District of Ashanti. Now he squats near the Railways’ quarters.

Everyday he comes to sit on the bridge, with his crutches by his side, hoping passers-by will drop something in his stretched hands.

Boakye looks very healthy, bold and intelligent. But one of his legs was amputated at the age of eight after suffering polio. He says though he could not pass through formal education due to his poor family background, he managed to learn a trade and established himself as a technician.

But that was short lived. “My electrical repair shop at Kejetia was torn down in a demolition exercise by the KMA [Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly], leaving me no place to work” he laments.

Boakye says efforts to get assistance to re-settle have proved futile. He says though begging at the footbridge is not something pleasant, he has no other alternative to survive.

“I come from a very poor family, I have no one to turn to because of my predicament. I wish I could do something better than begging but who would assist me?” Boakye wonders.

Solution in debt

The Edwenase Vocational Rehabilitation Centre in Kumasi was established in the 1960’s to train people with disabilities – to teach them new skills so they can integrate into society,

35 year-old Kofi Kumi Kwateng and his colleagues are learning to make shoes. But they aren’t working with leather – they’re making samples with paper because the centre can’t afford proper materials.

Kofi Kwateng has lived and taken classes at the centre for four years. Until he came here he stayed at home depending on his family to survive. Kwateng is learning new skills now. But he’s worried about what will happen to him after he graduates.

“The main challenge is we don’t get the assistance to help us go back and settle to work for ourselves. That is the number one challenge. And two, the tools and equipment to help us train very well is also absent here. Most of the time what I see is that since they don’t get the needed assistance to go back and work for themselves, most of the time we find them back in the street”, Kofi talks about the experience of his seniors.

Harrison Ababio’s experience perhaps corroborates Kwateng’s fears. Ababio left the vocational centre some years ago but still hasn’t found a permanent job. Instead, he’s doing odd jobs, trying to make a living. “I’m not doing nothing, I’m not doing any work. Why? Because I don’t have any capital to start my work. So, I’m working at different places…but it doesn’t help me at all,” he says.

Modesto Ayiwole has been Center Manager long enough to see the people who live and work here aren’t getting the proper training, and aren’t getting any help to find work when they graduate. Ayiwole says the problem is money.

“Our budget is always the last to be considered by the Ministry of Finance and yet our budget is the first to be cut when government decides to prune down its budget. We are like unwanted people who must survive by circumstance but they are not liked. Since the beginning of the year we are in session but not a single pesewa has been released. So how can a government institution be run on charity?” he inquires.

Ayiwole sounds frustrated because ninety percent of the institution’s means of survival hinges on donations. He says the training workshops have almost collapsed and accommodations are poor. The low government funding allows him to take on fewer than 50 students at a time, even though the center is meant for 200.Those who are accepted for training at the school are sent home intermittently because the centre simply runs out of funds and can’t keep going.

Ayiwole says “there are so many people with disability who would want to come here to improve on their status, but we cannot admit them because of feeding. Why should this be so, why should they be denied?

…And the situation gets worse

The Edwenase Rehab Centre is among social service institutions in the Ashanti region controlled by the Social Welfare Department. Others include the Kumasi Children’s Home, the Kumasi Remand Home, Bekwai Infirmary and Mampong Babies Home Many more are sited across Ghana

Supervisors of the institutions have warned of total collapse of the country’s social services sector if there is no immediate State intervention.

The social workers say years of neglect of destitute homes and rehabilitation centres have worsened the plight of the less-privileged in society and they are calling for a correction of the systemic failure.

Supervisor of the Bekwai Infirmary, Daniel Ayittey-Ayi, says facilities, and for that matter, living standards are deteriorating, as the aged residents look forward to donations for survival.

He says “funding from the State has been very very very scant since about ten years now. Previously when things were very good, we were giving the inmates their three meals a day but due to financial difficulties, we have being feeding them twice. It’s so bad that at times I’m compelled to use part of my salary to support, without the donors we cannot survive.”

The authorities know best?

The Minister of Employment and Social Welfare, Stephen Amoanor Kwao, acknowledges the total neglect of the social service institutions and has expressed government’s commitment to intervene as soon as possible.

He however indicates the plight of the supervisors may be eluded this year, because of ‘limited government expenditure’. According to the Minister “It’s just unfortunate this year the economy has not helped us. You know the economic downturn, the crisis from wealthy powers draining down to African… we are not able to give them the best budget that we have. But I want to assure of government’s commitment as much as it is possible and we are going to channel attention to the Social Welfare Department.”

For how long?

On the surface, it would seem wrong for anybody to beg for alms. But Ayiwole says in reality those with disabilities are justified. “They become an outcast, even within the family. So, they are not properly socialized. When it comes to education they are denied and so it becomes a cycle…and so the only common thing they can do is to go to the street…somebody will drop a coin in” he states.

Kwadwo Boakye’s wish is to be off the bridge at the least opportunity to establish on his own. He says though some people may be willing to give him something, the general economic hardship doesn’t make that possible. “I make ten thousand cedis [one Ghana cedis] per day and getting even that much is not easy” he says.

Most of these deprived institutions and individuals do not benefit from the Capitation Grant, School Feeding Programme and the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme.

“Families are neglecting them, government is neglecting them. They are human beings and they must survive, that is why they go on the streets to beg. Nobody should make that mistake and think that human dignity can be debased by oneself…. We have to make it clear to all in society and especially those in positions that no matter our nature, we are human beings and our development can be measured only when people in our category have been brought up by society to make meaningful contributions.” Ayiwole pricks on the conscience of society!

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh
E-mail: adomfeh@yahoo.com

Friday, May 15, 2009

Internet Presence

Find links to projects online.


Online Published Poems by KAD

Find below links to personal poems published on http://www.voicesnet.com


New Grounds in Agric

Find below links to contributions to http://ruralradio.cta.int/ on Agriculture and rural development.


Agriculture Reports and Interviews

Find below links to contributions to http://www.agfax.net/ on Agriculture and rural development.





Science Safari video


Cocoa video - Ghana's television extension

Find links to article on new communication initiative for agriculture extention in Ghana



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