As an intern of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) I have joined their Public Education Programme. For this Public Education Programme we go to primary schools to teach the Junior High School children about the Ghana Children’s Act 560 of 1998. I went to five different schools; public, private and international schools. I have not given any presentation so far. But after a while they want me to give presentations myself, for now the children can ask me questions if they want.
The presentation always starts with a small introduction about what CHRAJ is, where they are located and what they do. They explain that they are there the afternoon to teach them about children’s right. The topics they cover are; Definition of a child, Explanation of the term ‘welfare principle’, definition of Human Rights, correlation between rights and responsibilities, definition of the term ‘child labour’, examples of ‘child abuse’ and they conclude with some posters they show and a question round.
It differs per school if they, the children, in the classroom will respond a lot to the questions the person from CHRAJ asks or not. The first question that will be asked is if anyone in the room can define a child. In most schools they answer the question that a child is a person between 1 year old and 17 years. The reason why they start off from 1 year old I still do not know, it is probably because they think that babies do not fall in the category child. We then explain that a child is any person below the age of 18 years and ask the children to come up with some rights they have. And not to come up with the right to marry or the right to vote, since we are talking about a child, who is a person below the age of 18. They all come up with the right of education and life. We explain them that rights bring responsibilities with them, if you will enjoy your rights you have to take the responsibilities that come with the specific right. We ask them what their responsibilities are to have the right of education.Responsibilities like: to be on time at school and to go to school every school day, they use the words punctual and regular for it.
The aspect of child labour is one of the broader topics they teach the children. They explain them very clearly the difference between child work and child labour. Child work is good, it is an activity after school time; helping your family at home with sweeping, cleaning etc. or in the family business. As long it does not affect education, health or development and it is not between 8 pm and 6 am. They let the children think about work that will affect them and will therefore be child labour. They ask them always question like: you are my son or daughter and I will ask/tell you on a holiday or Sunday to come with me to the farm and weed – is this child labour yes or no? Both answers can be good, it depends how they explain their thoughts. Most will say that it is child labour because in the weekends, holidays they have to rest. If we ask others in the room they respond with the answer that it is work, because it does not affect their education. This question is always concluded by the person of CHRAJ that it is only child work, if it does not affect any of the three; education, health or development. So if you have to weed a whole land, a size of a hectare it will be child labour, but if it is a small part of the land it is child work.
At the topic of child abuses we spend the most time on the difference between rape and defilement. Since the Ghana law says that no person below the age of 15 years shall have sex, otherwise it will be called defilement. They teach the children to not have sex before that age, and wait even longer. It is very interesting to see the reaction of the children. I know by the responds to the questions that most of them have had sex already. I also know that the others of CHRAJ are aware of that and that they repeat themselves a lot on this topic. To make sure that they will not have sex, no unplanned pregnancy or illnesses.
I am impressed of the fact how much attention the kids pay, from what I can see they are really listening. Since the questions CHRAJ asks at the end of the presentation the children can answer them almost all the time without making mistakes.