Whose interest does Anas serve?

Anas Aremeyaw Anas. I quite remember watching one of his earliest exposé on a certain biscuit factory which used maggot infested flour to produce their products.

His work was hailed by many and at that at least led to the temporary shutdown of that factory.

He has since then gone ahead to carry many more investigations using covert means, i.e. disguised himself to usually seek information. There are those who have raised ethical issues about his methods but I’m not here to discuss that. Maybe some other time.

By now we have all heard about his latest exposé on the Countryside Orphanage in Bawjiase in the Central region. He’s reported to have stayed at the orphanage for six months disguised as a volunteer and secretly filmed some appalling conditions the home owners have been subjecting the kids to.

Indeed some of the scenes he captured were despicable to say the least. For instance the subjection of residents of the home to a compulsory fasting even in the abundance of food – that is not acceptable if it’s true.

I quiet remember Anas did a similar documentary on the Osu Children’s Home sometime back – it was really an eye-opener then. People had firsthand insight into what goes on behind the scenes at the country’s foremost orphanage.

As a journalist, many will argue that your cardinal duty is to expose wrong or ills of society. Normally, the purpose of exposing the ills of society is to have them corrected, in most instances. But in all times, the public interest must be paramount.

The Ministry of Gender and Social Protection under its Orphan and Vulnerable Children’s Policy (OVCP) is supposed to regulate the activities of all orphanages in the country. Usually, registered orphanages are supposed to receive a subvention of a sort from government for the running of the homes.

These subventions don’t come at all – in fact, what mostly comes in are usually next to nothing and irregular. Take for instance the case of Osu Children’s Home, which as at 2012 had about 200 residents but received only GH¢300 from government.

And to break it down further will mean that each kid was supposed to live on less than a cedi for the entire year. How bad can it possibly get? Of course, these orphans have become the responsibility of benevolent corporate organisations who donate foodstuffs and cash from time to time.

Let’s look at the case of the Countryside Orphanage in Bawjiase. The place is home to more than 100 kids, with barely no aid coming from government at all. As one of the most popular home to orphans in Ghana I shudder to think that the place is not registered under the Social Welfare Department.

To secretly filmed such a home for six months, definitely some negative stuff will be captured — no two ways about that. And I am sure that if we secretly filmed any organisation in the world a lot of people will be caught off-guard even in those with the highest moral standards.

Fact is we are no angels, but humans. Does that mean I support the ills perpetuated by the managers of the Bawjiase orphanage, a big no. What we are not told in Anas’ investigation, at least per what I have read so far, is the good that have come out from the place.

I know for a fact there have been more than a dozen people who grew up in the home and have proceeded to the tertiary institution and went on to become responsible adults. There are people who have pursued their dreams while residing in the home.

It can’t be all gloomy in the Countryside Orphanage. Some of the things we are told that happened or happens at the orphanage are things managers could have done little about much as they try.

Most donations to orphanages come in the form of goods and items. But most of the time we forget bills and wages have to be paid and these cannot be done using donated items. These items plus ones that the orphanage may not need have to be liquidated into cash to keep the place running.

Maybe we will not have gotten to a point where goods will be sold if government fulfilled its subvention to these homes. And for the struggles government goes through to raise funds for these homes I don’t think closing down the Bawjiase orphanage home will solve the perceived problems.

Indeed in the interest of the public, we could have confronted the managers of the home with the findings and impress upon them to modify their operations. All these could be done on the blind side of the public.

What Anas should have known is that government has no capacity to absorb the residents of the orphanage if it was closed down. Indeed if his aim was to see a reform of the place, I strongly believe that could have been achieved without the fanfare that heralded the investigation.

Some of the methods applied by caregivers much as crude were, were for lack of better methods. Like the improvise clinic – what did the department of social welfare do about that need? Let’s not kid ourselves, granted the entire orphanage is a failure, it’s rather a systemic failure and we should not hang people who tried their best in the midst of adversities.

If the residents of the Bawjiase Home do not find permanent residences – which seems very likely, what problem would we have solved with our exposé?

Let’s think about it.

I’m out.

The author can be contacted on abbeykwei@gmail.com