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Opinions of Friday, 5 February 2016

Columnist: Bibibome, Eric Ziem

The boy manfus

One beautiful and fascinating thing about interviewing people is that it brings you close to stories you may have heard from afar and never thought they needed rapid attention. Some of these stories may hit you on the spot and disappear from you without saying a good bye; others may also seem ordinary in your ears but may go a long way with you and keep visiting you in your reflections even when they have not been invited. One story that became my friend and companion during this weekend was that of a 10 year old school dropout called Manfus.
Manfus’ story became a part of me when learners from my school (Peculiar International School) were on Friday 30th of January, 2016, taken to Kasoa new market to interact with the market women and hawkers around. They were to interview the traders and dig out stories of how and what brought the sellers and hawkers on the street or market and how they are operating their businesses among other things. My learners were visibly excited because for some of them, that was the very first time ever to visit the market.
We got to the market happily and the learners were released into the market in groups for work to begin. Once in a while, I went round to monitor how the groups were faring. On one of my rounds, I realized one of the groups was struggling with interviewing a tomato seller because of language (None of the learners spoke the local language). I went to intervene and after what seemed a successful and very interesting interview with the tomato seller, I turned to leave and the very person I saw from the crowd of sellers and buyers who stared at my learners was a small boy in a dirty cloth, white skin showing how he was wresting with the harmattan and holding a ‘Ghana Must Go’ bag. I asked him to come but he hesitated out of fear I guess. I then moved towards him and my learners followed. We decided to engage him in a conversation in Twi because the only English he spoke was ‘Am fine.’ Opening up to us initially was difficulty but we achieved our purpose. Manfus was a 10 year old boy who came to the market everyday with the mother from Ofaankor to sell ‘Ghana Must Go Bag’. He had never had formal education and wished he could be in class like all his age mates. His dream was to be a footballer. According to him, he followed his mother to the market because he wanted to support her. In the course of the interview with Manfus, I intermittently stole a glance at my learners and it was obvious the effect the boy’s story had on them. They saw how fortunate and big an opportunity they had.
We made a follow up to Manfus’s mother whom we got to know sold ear rings and other hand bands somewhere in the market. In one breath, I imagined how the woman would receive us while in another, I felt our story would be incomplete without we seeing and talking to Manfus mother. Truthfully, he led us to his mother and although she was surprise to see us, she was cooperative. Manfus’mother hailed from Cote’ D’voire and got married to Mafod’s father who came from Takoradi but are now separated and she received no help from him. They stayed in Kasoa where Manfus attended Arabic school but ever since they moved to Ofaankor two years ago, Manfus had not had his Arabic class. She confessed that she was not happy that Manfus should be in the market selling whilst his colleagues were in the classroom learning but she did not have money to send him to school. She also admitted that leaving the boy to move in and out of the market alone was dangerous but again she has no choice. She also revealed that Mafod had a 12 year old brother at home who was shy to follow them to the market.

Listening to Manfus’ mother as she went on and on with her story in her own words, one thing was clear; Manfus should not be a victim of all these-He did not ask for this. Why should he not be like my learners and have all the wonderful opportunities they have? Manfus’ story is a clear case of numerous examples of children being robbed of their childhood. Clearly, boy Manfus has been made second to his contemporaries’ right from the very beginning. If he continues to be the boy who sells ‘Ghana Must Go’ bag when he is suppose to be in school, can boy Manfus be a futureoip[ Mahama? I believe you are the best judges.

Eric Ziem Bibibome
bibiziem@yahoo.com