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Caring for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) in Ghana

Caring for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) in Ghana

In the developing world like Ghana, the situation is even far worse. Among the tall list of preventive social intervention programs which have earned Ghana this admiration, stretching from the People’s National Defense Council (PNDC) era through the New Patriotic Party’s (NPP) regime to the era of the National Democratic Congress­NDC, mention can be made of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), The livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty Program (LEAP), The Free School Feeding Program, Capitation Grant to schools, The Program of Action to Mitigate the Social Cost of Adjustment (PAMSCAD), Cost of Living allowances (COLA), Tax Relief incentives, various scholarship opportunities , free vaccinations and child health promotions.

Currently, by the National Health Insurance Scheme exempt policy, for instance, the payment of premium is even waived for children under 18 years. Notwithstanding, this gives them free access to healthcare for the entire year.

Quite recently, I visited a Senior High School (Nsawkaw State Senior High School) in the Tain District of Brong Ahafo Region. I was flabbergasted to find in place five (5) different functioning scholarship schemes—Northern Extraction scholarship, Cocoa Marketing Board (CMB) scholarship, Government of Ghana Merit­based award, Secondary Education Improvement Program Scholarship (SEIP) and Mathematics, Science and ICT Education Scholarship.

In all, nearly fifty percent of the students placed in the school each year by the Computerized Schools Selection and Placement Scheme (CSSPS) benefit from these scholarships. My investigation revealed a similar trend in many other high schools across the nation. Even in the other schools, students enjoy additional scholarships including the GetFund scholarship, MPs Common fund scholarship, etc. As if this is not enough, the NDC government of Ghana recently launched the progressively free education program, ushering in virtually free secondary education for most day students in the country.

The then main opposition political party (the New Patriotic Party­NPP) even made free education the central theme of their campaign manifesto. Such interventions do not only make it possible for children from economically disadvantaged families to receive the much­needed education but also enhance the abilities of their respective families to save and invest in improving their living standards.

The LEAP program also ensures direct cash transfer of approximately $30million annually to the extremely poor households in all the 210 districts in Ghana. In fact, such tangible social support has been demonstrated by experts to be the most effective social support for poor individuals. No one can thus underestimate the huge impact this LEAP program has had on the welfare of children in its over 70,000 beneficiary households who could not have offered themselves one decent meal a day.

In all, without these strategic preventive social programs from successive governments as well as multinational donor agencies (e.g., UNICEF, USAID, JICA) the stability of many families in Ghana would have been threatened and more children would have been dumped at refuse dumps, become school dropouts, child prostitutes, hardened criminals or head porters (Kayaye).

This assertion is in line with an observation by a famous social work educator, Nancy Boyd Webb. She noted in her book (1996), titled Social Work Practice with Children that “after years of abuse and neglect children internalise and then replicate the dysfunctional behaviour they have witnessed and experienced during their formative years”

From my years of experience in this field, if anything at all is left to be added to the interventions highlighted above, to further empower and enhance the abilities of Ghanaian families to function more effectively as the most conducive environment for children to receive protection against abuse, neglect and exploitation, they should include;

Linking families to support systems

Providing education and training in parenting and child care skills, home management, occupational and vocational skills, etc Promoting access to individual and family counseling, substance abuse and mental health treatments. Making social welfare workers available to families.

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