Ghana makes great efforts to look after its young people and the crime rate among juveniles is very low compared with many countries. These are partly accounted for by the extended family system and by the use of informal traditional courts in our rural areas. Some argue that institutions such as borstals help to perpetuate crime because they do not have the resources to rehabilitate their inmates as they would wish. Therefore they are likely to commit further crimes when they are released.
It is in our big cities, where the extended family has broken down and where there are no traditional courts, that most crime occurs. We have all the problems described in the earlier pages of this unit. We can learn how to deal with them from our own experience and experience gained in other countries. The ways of curbing juvenile discipline in Ghana include the following;
It is generally accepted that some children are more likely to be undisciplined in the future if they have not lived in a supportive structured family. It seems logical to look at that and ask what can be done to support vulnerable families, especially those forced to live on the street.
Ghana’s culture has for generations been based on an extended family structure. Indiscipline within families will sometimes be linked with a breakdown of that structure. If a single mother or father cannot cope with a large family, they need support from the community. If this cannot be given within an extended family then society itself needs to find ways to offer support. Communities and schools know which families are vulnerable.
We do have a Department of Social Welfare but it is not nearly large enough to deal with all families in need. Perhaps voluntary groups can be called upon to fill even more of that and give practical help in looking are the children for some of the time.
These already exist in some of our cities and prove valuable in deterring some young people from causing trouble. People in our towns and cities know where our teenagers meet to socialize. Such meetings are a healthy part of growing up as long as they do not lead to causing fear and trouble.
Some youth services and some church groups provide help for such groups if they need to have it. Some adults are very good at making contact with groups like these. They can approach and relate well. When they do they can learn about what most concerns young people and how they can be helped. They might encourage them to get involved in other activities like church groups, youth groups, or sporting activities. They might be able to prevent trouble from occurring. They might be able to point to training programs or informal learning.
The community has already been given a role in family support to reduce juvenile indiscipline. There is also a role for the community in looking after the needs of those who have left school, who are under-occupied and bored. They are the ones seen in groups, causing fear and possibly involved in nuisance and mischief.