Apprenticeship gives Richard hope for the future
As part of its Community Development Programme, the International Cocoa Initiative supported older children in cocoa-growing communities through apprenticeships. Teenagers like Richard Osei gained skills to help them in the future and reduce their risk of undertaking hazardous tasks on the cocoa farm. ICI caught up with Richard three years after his apprenticeship began to learn about his progress.
At 17 years of age, Richard Osei was a school dropout living in Sefwi Camp, a cocoa community in Ghana. He decided to leave school because his results were not encouraging. He had to fend for himself with whatever money he made from the sale of beans from the family’s small cocoa farm.
Today, Richard is a 20-year-old thriving adult who is able to take care of himself and his family. This is because he took the opportunity to enroll in design block moulding training under the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) apprenticeship programme in 2017.
“Since enrolling in the the block moulding training, I find it easier to take care of myself. Before joining the programme, even clothing myself was an issue for me,” Richard recalls. “Until the cocoa beans were sold, I had nothing. But now, my boss gives me a daily allowance of GHC5.00 for food. He also gives me a commission when sales are made. The least I receive from a sale is GHC100. Out of this money, I am able to save GHC5.00 daily.”
Richard’s savings have allowed him to support his family, even through hardship. “Before March 2020, I had saved GHC400,” he said. “When we closed down temporarily as a result of the lockdown, I was able to take some of my savings to support myself, my mother and my niece. As the only child currently living with her, I take care of the utility bills. I am also able to support my mother whenever she needs money for the house.”
As in other countries and communities, children in cocoa communities in Ghana between the ages of 15 and 17 are more likely to end up as victims of child labour and take part in hazardous work. However, many child protection programmes do not cover this group because they are seen to be less vulnerable than younger children. In fact, skills and jobs for youth feature prominently in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with SDG target 4.4 calling for a substantial increase in the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills.
Richard has now become a role model in his community and among his friends as they can clearly see the impact it has made in his life. Richard added that his determination to complete the training changed him from a lazy person to a respected and hard worker.
“Most of my friends and the people in my community thought I would not be able to complete the training,” he explained. “Now, they look at me with respect. I am really proud of what I have been able to achieve. My mother used to frown whenever she saw me because she felt I was wasting my life. Now, she proudly tells me I don’t ask her for anything, but I am able to support her and provide her with whatever she requests.
“People used to treat me with annoyance because they felt I was a parasite. Now, they smile when they see me and treat me with respect. I am really proud of myself.”
Richard doesn’t plan to rest on his laurels. He plans to branch out in the future and maybe even open his own workshop. His father is also willing to assist him with starting up the new business.
“I initially planned to end the apprenticeship in 2021 but I have decided to move it to 2022. I want to assist my trainer for sometime as I save towards setting up my own place. My goal is to work towards establishing my own site so I can continue supporting my family. I want to raise at least GHC2000 to establish my workshop,” Richard said.
Frank Ofori, Richard’s boss and trainer, has also pledged to help Richard on his path to becoming a master design block moulder.
The apprenticeship programme, gave Richard hope that his life will be better. And this is coming to pass. With this hope comes the ability for Richard to create a better life for himself and his family.