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Opinions of Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Columnist: Kwarkye, Nana Abena Afriyie

The Beggar on our street

*By Nana Abena Afriyie Kwarkye*

The Encarta dictionary defines a beggar as somebody who begs for money or food from strangers. Instead of sweeping the subject under the carpet, it needs special attention. I believe it is a social problem and it should be looked at seriously. I trust that you come into contact with these people almost everytime you hit the road. I always do, you know.

Here in Accra, they position themselves at vantage points especially around the traffic light. I bet it will not come as a surprise if you also come across them in highly populated social places such as the market, hospitals and the like. It is a normal scene to see more than one person rush to your car as soon as the traffic light highlights red.

These beggars move from one car to the other trying their luck with passengers on board if it is a commercial vehicle. If you are driving a private car, these beggars think that you should be the most generous giver.

One funny observation is that, once you don’t give them any attention they quickly move on to the next car. Thus making hay while the sun shines (while the traffic light shows red).

Amazingly, they seem to wake up very early .When I get to town as early as 6:00 am, I always see ‘my friends’ by the road side, ready to harvest. I call it their cocoa season. The struggle to make ends meet continues till the sun goes down. Then they call it a day and calculate how much they made in a day.

Let me get a bit controvesial here. In a day if a beggar receives a 0.50GP (Ghana pesewas) from about 100 cheerful givers, he is sure to earn GH¢50.00 just in a day. What is the daily minimium wage if I may ask? How much do you earn in a day? They are surely in bussiness and they make so much money in a day more than some of us. Why will they not keep coming back for more just like Oliver Twist?

My little observation is that, not all these beggars have some form of disability or the other. Some of them really look fit and can work just like you and me. To them, living a life on the street as beggars is the easiest way to make a living. They don’t want to go through the hustling and bustling that we go through on a daily basis. They prefer to be under the sun and casting the dice to see who makes it in the day.

Take a closer look at those who have lost their sight and the ones who are pushed in the wheel chair. Funny enough, they never walk alone. They are always escorted by grown up able bodied men and women.

At the same place where this activity is most vibrant, hawkers also ply the area going about their daily chores. The question that always rings in my mind is that, so can’t these people find some work to do to support their family (beggars) if indeed they are related instead of following them around soliciting for money? Life must go on, granted. How about trying something else apart from helping the begging trade go on?

Most of these beggars have deviced a way of extorting money from innocent men and women. Most of them look healthier than even some of us but they have made the choice to earn a living on the street. Some of them can really get abusive with words if you refuse to be generous. This really surprises me, a beggar with a choice!

Have you noticed that around the Nkrumah Circle, most of the beggars who ‘work’ there are not disabled in anyway either. The women who ply this area are also as fit as fiddle. Do you need to become a beggar because you have given birth to twins, triplets or quadriplets? That should only encourage these women to work hard with the support from their husbands or the father of their babies. This is not a disability for crying out loud.

It appears that some foreigners have also joined this business. My little investigation shows that they are from Chad, a West African country. They have really gotten used to this country. Everyday I think they multiply faster than you can imagine, this is not an exaggeration.

These type of beggars are really smart. The adult beggars hide somewhere and they push their children to get the job done. The children are made to understand that it is their hard work that will put food on the table, so they go all out to do what they have been trained to do best. Why should these children be denied the right to education and turned into bread winners?

Ever since I started working at Tema Fishing Harbour over a year ago, there is one physically challenged man who has caught my attention till date. He is a criple. He has made for himself a self driven wheel chair. This man drives his wheel chair just like you drive your car. He is truly aninspiration to me. Despite his disabilty, he earns a living by selling news papers. He is not on the street like others who are in a better situation than he finds himself.

Apart from this, he also sells locally made body cream. He knows he was not blessed with two legs as some of us, but he has resolved to make a decent living by working hard. He does not depend on other people for money just like the beggars on the street do.

The time has come to rid our street of beggars . They can do something with their lives. It is not late at all. It is time for the society to take a second look at this issue critically. A company in Ghana called rlg has started with providing them with training in Information Communication Technology (ICT).

All hands on deck!!!!!!!