Witchcraft or child neglect? – Society must judge 

A GNA Feature by Victoria Agyemang  

Cape Coast, Jan 19, GNA –  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 live and work in Accra, believed her children, now 10 and 15, practiced 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, Egyaw 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, Egyaw 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 leveled against old men and women, who, in some cases, are beaten to death. Why should this happen to people in the 21st 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 tortious journey in loneliness, hunger, pain and bitterness. 

Policies and interventions should, therefore, be strengthened to safeguard the lives of children immediately after birth. 

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.