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14-Sep-2009  
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Armed Robbery Academy
The above institute, located in the heart of Ghana’s most congested and unplanned municipality, is looking for young people to train as professional armed robbers for long-term livelihood.


Qualifications:
• Junior High School drop-outs or stark illiterates
• Unemployed
• Homeless
• Aged between 13 and 25
• Knowledge in wee smoking or cocaine sniffing is an added advantage.
• Previous experience in pick-pocketing and mobile phone snatching is required.



Qualified tutors with varied experience in high power armed robbery, as well as prison experiences, are at your service.
Rush for limited vacancies. The above probably would be the advertiser’s announcement to invite young people to be trained as armed robbers in this country. Last Wednesday, the 2nd of September 2009, we woke up to hear about the arrest of children between the ages of 13 and 15 in Ashiaman who have been recruited to be trained as armed robbers.


The director of the academy happens to be a known armed robber who was recently granted amnesty. I am very sure that many Ghanaians were or are still happy about the arrest because potential armed robbers have been arrested and will be kept away from decent members of the society. Temporary, yes, but for how long? As I looked at the faces of these children, I asked myself whether these children were born to be criminals.


Why will children, as young as 13, decide to train as armed robbers instead of going to school or learning an artisanal trade? What is the difference between these children and other children of the same age group who are in school or apprenticed to qualified artisans all over the country? Do we as Ghanaians recognize the harm we are creating for the future of this country? These children, who have been arrested for training as armed robbers, were born to people who are supposed to be their parents.


It is the primary responsibility of every parent to guard and guide a child into adulthood. The adult life of a person invariably, in most instances, is related to the guidance and training the adult received as a child. In many developed nations, when children are involved in criminal activities, the system checks the background of the child, who the parents are, what the child’s upbringing is and what motivates the child to engage in criminal activities at that tender age.


If the state finds out that for whatever reason the biological parents or any member of the extended family is unable to take care of the child, they take responsibility of the upkeep and training of that child. In Ghana, when children who engage in criminal activities, as a result of CIRCUMSTANCES BEYOND THEIR CONTROL, are arrested, they are treated like full grown criminals.


Do we make efforts to find out who the parents of these children are? Why are they in the streets when they are supposed to be in school? We live in a society where anybody can decide to exhibit his or her ability to produce children without taking into account the responsibility that goes with childbearing. We accept and glorify childbirth, which is not bad in itself, celebrate it with pomp and pageantry, but as the child grows, and he or she needs the support of the parents the most, the parents abandon them. As early as even five years, some children are left on their own while society looks on nonchalantly.


As the late South African reggae star, Lucky Dube said in one of his songs, Born To Suffer, “The children need parental care, they need spiritual care, if they grow up without the parents, who is gonna tell them this is right, if they grow up without the parents, who is gonna tell them this is wrong”. So while the parents abandon the children, society generally looks at them with scorn and contempt until they decide to find themselves something to do.


Coupled with the total breakdown of the extended family system, which used to take care of every individual member of the family, these abandoned children become parents as well, taking care of themselves, and in some cases their younger siblings who are equally abandoned by irresponsible parents and a increasingly selfish society. Situations like these send me back to my childhood days as a street child, struggling, at the then economically vibrant Kojokrom Train Station, as a common carrier, out of school.


That is some 41 years ago. It took a caring grandmother to pluck me out of that place, put me back to school, and today, I am what I am. She did not live long enough to see the fruits of her efforts, but at least at the time of her death, the grandson she saved from the train station was a practicing journalist. Thank you, grand mum. I can bet on my life that many of these children in police grip, waiting to be tried and possibly sent to jail, given the opportunity, can be lawyers, journalists, engineers etc. Those who do not have the brains for academic work are likely to be excellent in various artisanal vocations.


Do not just dump them in jails to rot away. Even if they are sentenced to 20 years imprisonment each, by the time they come out, some of them would be in their late thirties and others in their late forties. They will be more dangerous to the society, and if those of us at the helm of affairs die off by that time, our children will bear the brunt of their anger.


When a section of the society feel unwanted, when they believe they are of no importance to the society, they tend to destroy themselves because of the low esteem the society accords them, and what they see of themselves as well.

On their self-destructive path, they inflict part of their anger and frustration on the general society, hence the crimes, petty and high level crimes. Let us use this present case as a case study to guide our responses to similar situations in the future. Let the state put all these children into a camp they cannot run away from, like a boarding school, provide teaching and learning facilities in those camps, provide teachers and instructors and all the facilities that we find in many Senior High Schools, train them for the next five years and see what the outcome might be.


I am sure at the least; they would all pass out with one form of vocation or the other and be of good use to themselves and to society in general. They are innocent children, victims of an unjust society that is crumbling because of individualism and selfishness. They certainly would have wished to be among those preparing TO BE IN SCHOOL AS SCHOOLS RE-OPEN.


If there is also a law which deals with irresponsible parentage, particularly the men, let us enforce those laws to serve as a deterrent to those who think they can show their manhood or womanhood by bringing innocent children into this world and abandoning them at will.


The whole society must wake up to this challenge. When you have an educational system which terminates an academic progression at the Junior High School level because the student did not pass the first time around, that will be reason enough to enroll in an ARMED ROBBERY ACADEMY.


 
 
Source: Credit: Kwesi Biney/Daily Guide
 
 

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