I hate begging

Begging in Ghana is fast becoming a threat which if not checked, will reach a catastrophic level. Nowadays, panhandlers—both local and foreigners—beseech our traffic lights, shopping malls, streets, bus stops, hospitals and doorways. This gets one to ask the contentious question: Is begging now a profession? Yes! I guess it is for this reason why our begging industry has courted many foreigners. That panhandling did not start in recent times is not disagreeable, but its intensity and conspicuousness in our public space have never been more. Poverty, lack of education, irresponsible parenting, laziness, and religion and culture are identified causes of begging in our public space. In Ghana, religion has been a reported driving force behind begging. Major religions in our society preach generosity and kindness towards our neighbors especially the less-fortunate. This has inadvertently, to some extent, encouraged begging in the country. For this reason, it is common to see army of mendicants parading around our worship centers in the naming of begging. Yet, it is imperative that we guide ourselves with the words of the scriptures in our attempt to help panhandlers—if a man does not work, he shall not. Culture underpinnings of begging has also led many mothers of twins into begging, in some parts of the country, as it is believed that begging with twins prevented evil spirits from befalling such twins. Should panhandling, then, be discouraged? In a ‘religious’ country like Ghana, one is considered a black sheep by making statement against or what seem to suggest that panhandling should be despise or dissuaded. However, dispassionately considering its pros and cons, there will be no choice than to implement or enforce the existing laws that disfavors it. Many reasons account for why panhandling should be discouraged: It invites unwanted strangers into the country, reinforces substance abuse and other social vices, loss of human resources, promotes child labor and denies children their right to education and inspires laziness. Panhandling, aside being an eyesore, it brings into our country unwanted visitors. Is it not disgusting seeing parents relaxing under shade while the little ones are left at the mercy of the scorching sun begging? These little ones are taught never to accept No as an answer when begging, for this reason they can walk with you for tenths of meters harassing you to cough out money—this the hall mark of the foreign- panhandlers in the country. The question is what is the future of these people in this country? It is true that a significant number of panhandlers in this country are disabled people. Hence, not dispiriting begging is like accepting that disability is inability. If this was true, we would not have the likes of Nick Vujicic, a great Christian preacher; Stevie Wonder, one of the beloved singers alive today; Richard Branson, one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time; Henry Seidu Daanaa, Former Minister of Chieftaincy and Traditional Affairs of Ghana, and many more. Can we imagine what these magnificent people would have denied our world of if they had jumped on the panhandlers’ wagon? A lot beggars patronize hard drugs. All they need is steady flow of cash without working, so they can continue their addictions. These types of beggars are so invasive and aggressive that they even rain insults on you if you don’t give them money or if you give them an amount that they consider not enough. They pose as if we owe them our hard earned money. I think, I would be pardoned if I conclude that giving them money is tantamount to plunging them into the abyss of addiction. Not only does it (begging) make our towns look bad, but it also inspires laziness. You will see a bunch of energetic youth panhandling all day long, and you wonder and get tired trying to figure out the disability that compels them into begging. This, however, pinches me to make the legal statement: It takes a lot of energy and stamina to stand out there all day long every day. If you are capable of standing on a street corner asking for money every day, then, you are capable of doing some type of productive work. Just imagine the outcome if they put that effort into a meaningful job—please don’t tell me there are no jobs. Also, countless number of Ghanaian children are out there begging or helping their disabled parents to beg. They are seen on the streets begging during school hours. Personally, I find it dangerous that many choose to stand on the median strips of busy roads. I worry for their safety as well as mine. I wish there was an easier way to disseminate information regarding where they can go for help—that is if such a place exist—maybe billboards with directions on where to reach the closest welfare center. I wonder what the future has in store for these young ones. I wonder why we make children when we cannot cater for them. I do not think the scriptures which we so believe in admonish that. Unfortunately, it is difficult to get away from panhandling and the negative effects it brings on society. Many have proposed that begging should be banned, but will this eliminate it? Countries (UK, Denmark, China, US, etc.) with the finest laws and resources have made begging illegal, and have adopted draconian measures against it, yet they have not been able oust it—perhaps we need a completely different approach in this country. Ideally, the best way to annihilate panhandling is to stop giving them (beggars) money. “Let us take the sympathy and stop the money giving and let God sort them out,’’ as some people put it. But, personally, I think it is practically impossible due to some moral reasons. How, then, can we tackle this gargantuan problem with a sense of extreme urgency in this country? Sensitization could be a useful tool for fighting this menace. An effective multimedia public campaign on the consequences of panhandling at the individual, societal and national levels could go a long way to reducing the menace. Such campaigns should not only inspire confidence and belief in the natural abilities and potentials of the disabled and beggars in general, but it should, as secondary objective, throw a subtle stigma jab at begging in the public space. As a measure to contain the effects of the sensitization campaign, more disabled schools, up to the university level, should be established across the country, and these institutions should be made accessible to all disabled persons. The existing social welfare centers should also be well resourced for proper execution of their mandates. Criminalizing child-begging and prosecuting parents of child-beggars could help reduce the incidence of child- panhandling. Closely linked, city authorities should criminalize panhandling at traffic lights to stop ‘beggar nuisances’, prevent accidents and ensure the smooth flow of traffic. A nationwide reproductive health education campaign on the importance of family planning should also be intensified in order that more children that cannot be catered for by their parents are not brought forth in the first place. In addition, the country’s immigration service should tighten our borders against illegal influx of immigrants who pour in droves into the country on begging missions. Finally, the state could set up beggar homes, where beggars will be housed and given some employable skills and training. By Abdul Rahim Fatawu (Newtown) Email: [email protected]]]>

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