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Opinions of Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Columnist: Victor kwame kafui Ativie

The plight of rural-urban migrants

‘Movement of Jah people’, as sang by the musical legend Bob Marley, in reference to the book ‘Exodus’ of the Holy Bible, made us know about the hardship, suffering and abuse of human rights the Israelites went through in Egypt.

Now, a symbolic exodus of Ghanaian locals to the city has become alarming. These migrants come from different parts of the country, they move due to unsatisfactory jobs, extreme poverty, peer influence, misinformation, lack of recreational facilities, unhealthy traditional practices, to mention a few.

According to the Holy bible, Israelites were assured by God, a promise land which flowed with ‘milk and honey’. The migrants like Israelites, seem to think that, the city flows with ‘milk and honey’, which symbolically, is the solution to their problems.

Upon reaching the city, the migrants are surprised about the way they live, disappointment is what their faces express, and the fantasies they had about the city being like ‘heaven’ were all fallacies. Out of this disappointment, some sadly go back home, others decide to work to gather some money to take back home, this period, however, begins the plight of rural-urban migrants.

The migrants, in the city, resort to menial jobs such as shoe-repairing (shoe-shine), driving, lorry conducting (mate), rubbish collection (bola), scrap and discarded bottle collection (koliba), street selling, luggage carrying (kaya-kaya) and many others.

‘Kaya-kaya’, which means ‘burden’ in Hausa, is a term given to people who perform menial tasks by way of conveying luggage of people at a cost. Literally, a ‘kaya-kaya’ is a load carrier, a female ‘kaya-kaya’ is commonly known as ‘kaya-yoo’, meaning

‘burden-girl’ and the male is also called ‘kaya-nu’, meaning ‘burden-man’.

Nowadays, our market places like, Makola, Agbogbloshie, Timber and Mallam-Atta markets, are full of ‘kaya-yei’. Have you for once asked yourself how these ‘kaya-yei’ survive; where they bath, sleep and even what they eat? Despite the fact that they tremendously help in our market places, they are not being helped by any one.

In an in-depth interview with Zainabu, a ‘kaya-yoo’ from Tamale, at Mallam-Atta market last Wednesday, this is what I gathered.

Initially, Zainabu refused to co-operate until I bought her breakfast worth fifty Ghana Pesewas. Zainabu, who was not certain of her own age and also refused to tell that of her child, said that, she migrated from Tamale with fifteen other friends to Accra , 2years ago. However, I asked her what she and her friends came to do in Accra, and she responded in a broken Akan, ‘there are no lucrative jobs in Tamale and I do not want to work on the farm forever, some of my friends ran-away because, they were being forced into marriage, so when some one told us life was better in the city, we escaped to Accra’.

A few of the ‘kay-yei’ who survive the hustle in the city, go back home each year with ‘improved’ living standards and with ‘civilized’ lifestyles, thus motivating and luring others to have a feel. Young people of age about twelve to twenty-eight, flee to the city without planning on how to survive.

About fifty ‘kaya-yei’ from Mallam-Atta, Nima and other surrounding markets, gather after work between 6 and 6:30 in the evening, to have their bath at a public bath house beside a big gutter which separates Kokomlemle from Nima.

Because there are just 3 bath-rooms, the few who come early get the chance to bath, and the rest who can not wait, bath in the open with only their panties on. The scene is bizarre. Passers-by, curious neighbours and people like me, spend useful time watching the ‘kaya-yei’ bath. After bathing, each of them struggle for a space to sleep. Many of them are found sleeping in front of shops and houses near the market where they are exposed to rapists and bad weather. The ‘kaya-yei’ can not afford to fall ill, because, they do not want to use the little they have to buy medicine or even go for consistent medical check-ups.

One evening, as I walked through circle, I came by a building and on top of it were people sleeping. As I enquired, I was told they were migrants, a greater number of them from the Central and Northern regions of the country. They dealt in diverse trades like selling coconuts, oranges, ice-cream and dog chains. Others were drivers, ‘mates’ and ‘car-parking boys’.

Seth, a twenty-five year old ‘car-parking boy’ said that he had been doing the job for about a year and it was lucrative. He said, ‘I want to become a footballer and so I wake-up at about 5:00 in the morning to go and train, and in the evening, I come and park cars’. Often, these parking boys close work at about 3:00am, only waiting for owners of the parked cars to return, owing to the fact that, they are rewarded for keeping watch of the cars. They said that, in a normal day, they make about GH¢5. Seth said, ‘I do susu with my money, at the end of the month, I buy myself new training shoes and shirt, I also buy food and send some of the money to my mother in the village’. The public relations officer, Mr. Eshun, of the hotel where the boys parked cars said that, it was illegal for the boys to be parking cars. He said, ‘we have security men in charge to do that job, those boys are not insured and anything which happens to them will not be our responsibility’.

The boys work at the mercy of drunk and reckless drivers from the hotel’s night-club and restaurant. Even though no one as at yet, suffered any fatal accident from this job, the consequence is very clear.

Seth said that, after work, he joined his friends at the roof-top where often; there are incidents of theft, rape and sodomy. When it rained, they had no haven but to coil humbly and defenselessly under a kiosk, tree or rather, loosen-up to be beaten by the rain. Can any one imagine the level of suffering these Ghanaians who are only trying to make ends meet go through?

Migrants, who are rather lucky to learn a profession like driving, risk the lives of passengers. Hitherto, in our transport stations, many lorry conductors(mates), and drivers are migrants who do not even have vehicle licenses, but go through a traditional training and if they are able to ‘pass’ by moving a vehicle, then they are expert enough to convey passengers.

Many of our road carnages are due to inexperienced driving. Drivers and ‘mates’ who are homeless seek shelter in lorries at the transport station and are exposed to mosquito bites and other environmental diseases like rashes and tuberculosis. Other female hawkers, who are also homeless, join the men in the lorries and the unthinkable always happens.

The ordeal and inhumane experience of our fellow Ghanaians is appalling. Their natural rights like, rights to proper shelter, protection, safety, food and good working conditions are denied them.

There is however the need for government and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), to create better and lucrative jobs in rural areas. Governmental policies toward development must be decentralized and equitably shared among the rural and urban centres. Migrants in the city need to be identified by governmental agencies and their special needs and wants critically looked at.

Moreover, consistent education on sex, teenage pregnancy and human rights need to be paramount in our societies and made available to the migrants, also, special occupational training need to be organized for the migrants and through counseling, social vices like stealing, rape, armed-robbery and sodomy may be reduced.

Additionally, certain traditional practices that are against human rights, like child betrothal, need to be seriously looked at and necessary corrections made so that young girls do not leave school or home and migrate to the city to seek refuge.

In our daily lives, we observe the impact of the rural-urban migrants. The sanitation and accommodation problems in the city recently are attributed to the increase of rural-urban migrants.

In this write-up, lack of lucrative jobs, peer influence and unhealthy traditional practices were seen as possible causes and motivations of rural-urban migration, however, teenage pregnancy, theft, rape and unhealthy lifestyles were also seen as possible effects and problems the migrants go through.

Moreover, it was also suggested that job creation, education and protection of the human rights of migrants could also go a long way to minimize the effects of migration.

Lastly, the onus lies on you and I, not to alienate and disdain the efforts and assistance of local migrants because their impact toward development is vital.

The next time you come across a migrant, be friendly, polite, nice and modest.

Thank you.