Witchcraft or child neglect? …society must judge

Kwadwo Afful and his elder sister, Aba Kyerewaa (not their real names), at the age of two and seven, respectively, were rejected by their mother and sent to Cape Coast to live with their paternal grandmother. Their offence was that their mother, who now lives and works in Accra, believed her children, now 10 and 15, practised witchcraft and were at the centre of her failure in life.

For eight years, Afful and Kyere­waa lived with their grandmother and their father at Nkafoa, a community in the Cape Coast Metropolis, under unfavourable conditions with their childhood literally stolen from them. Like their mother, the father of the children, Egya Afful (not his real name), was also convinced that the children were possessed by evil spirits and were the cause of his poverty and misery. He was certain that they were responsible for his struggles as a driver’s mate on a public transport, popularly known as “trotro.”

With his unrepentant conviction, Egya Afful did not miss any opportu­nity to subject the children to starva­tion and beatings on daily basis at the least provocation and sometimes, for no reason at all.

He also refused to cater for their basic needs, including education for a better future. In tattered clothes with lopsided slippers, Afful and Kyerewaa, virtually street children now, survive by running errands and doing home chores for some mem­bers of the community.

Consumed by fear, Afful reluctant­ly narrated his ordeal to the Ghana News Agency (GNA), hoping to be rescued. He said he was repeatedly denied food and water to take his bath because they believed he was a wizard.

“I always sleep without eating or taking my bath; I am not comfortable with that,” he said in a shaky voice with tears rolling down his cheeks.

Afful’s wish is to be rescued and enrolled in school this year. He, therefore, made an appeal to the authorities and the public to go to his aid. A neighbour, who pleaded anonymity, reported the ordeal of the two to the GNA and said they were abused daily with impunity.

She said she was afraid to report the case to the police for fear of victi­misation by society but she could not bear the scene any longer. She ap­pealed to the Government to rescue the children and take the necessary action against their parents.

The situation brings to bare the baseless accusations of witchcraft, the abuse of the alleged victims, and the need for the appropri­ate authorities to step up action against the menace.

Often times, accusations of witchcraft are levelled against old men and women, who, in some cases, are beaten to death. Why should this happen to people in the 21 century, who are not re­garded even when they prove their innocence.

And for minors to suffer this ordeal is even more unthinkable. Efforts by the Authorities The Regional Social Welfare Depart­ment, after some consultations, have begun thorough investiga­tions into the case to get to the root of the matter.

It pledged to ensure the children were sent to school and all forms of violence against them halted, while ensuring that those persons involved were punished.

Ms Grace Kensah, an Assis­tant Programmes Officer at the Department, said the office would ensure that the children were pro­tected and cared with regard to the Children’s Act 1998, Acts 560.

She condemned the viola­tions against them and said the perpetrators would face the law when found guilty. She said the Department, under the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, was poised to safe­guarding the rights of children.

Ms Kensah noted that children had the right to access to educa­tion and it was the responsibility of parents to provide that, as the law frowns on those who shirked that responsibility.

Way Forward Undoubtedly, there are many children out there with similar stories and suffering through no fault of theirs because of the inaction by state organ­isations mandated to track and offer some kind of relief to such children, leaving them to bear the brunt of life’s tortuous journey in loneliness, hunger, pain and bitterness.

Policies and interventions should, therefore, be strengthened to safeguard the lives of children immediately after birth. Earn around GH¢200 per day at 3/3. The Government could develop a system to take records and track children’s wellbeing until they are 18 years, when they are deemed of age to take their own decisions. Institutions in charge of children’s protection and safety must be resourced to work effectively for the betterment of all.


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