Children's vulnerability and coping strategies to poverty in the Cape Coast metropolis of Ghana
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This study attempts to explore poverty as a determinant / cause of children‟s vulnerability and the various coping strategies children affected by poverty adopt/adapt to make life more bearable for them in the Cape Coast metropolis of Ghana. The study additionally ascertained poor children‟s interpretation/meaning and experience of poverty as well as ways of improving their life conditions. Structuration theory and the new social studies of childhood, both of which emphasise on structure and agency were employed as the theoretical framework that guided the study. Children form important part of every structure (society) and are also affected by structural forces / constraints. Consequently, being competent social actors with agency, they struggle by way of adopting a variety of coping strategies to adjust to livelihood constraints within the structure. These theoretical frameworks helped to make a more realistic understanding of children‟s utilisation of their agency in times of economic adversity. The triangulation approach which encompasses multiple methods of data collection was employed for the study. To this end, a survey with a sample size of 246 in addition to 3 focused group discussions and 6 in-depth interviews were carried out with children in 4 Junior High Schools located in the poverty stricken areas of Cape Coast. These primary data was complemented with other secondary data. This methodological choice was influenced by the theoretical frameworks. The findings of the study revealed that children‟s interpretation of poverty is not different from adults‟ as they interpret poverty from their own experiences in addition to what they see around them. Additionally, children adopt variety of strategies to cope with poverty, some concealed and unacknowledged, some socially accepted with few others being socially unacceptable. The major coping strategies as revealed by the study are borrowing from their peers, working alongside schooling, hiding needs as well as demanding less from parents. Furthermore, it was also revealed that children in poverty utilise their agency in two ways: for the acquisition of their needs through engaging in money earning activities and to support their families by contributing to their finances so as to help move them out of poverty. Among the vulnerabilities poor children suffer as revealed by the study included exclusion from school trips and activities, right deprivation, and usage of unacceptable treatment sources when they are sick. Stigmatisation however was not found to be prominent among these poor children who constituted informants for the study. Furthermore, the structure, as revealed by the study is more constraining than enabling on poor children‟s lives as a result of insufficient interventions to help these children. Therefore it is recommended that, government (structure) ought to intensify interventions aimed at providing for these children as well as efforts at reducing poverty in general, by way of creating employment for poor families to enable them get regular source of income to cater for their children. Similarly interventions, such as social provisions for poor families and their children needs to cover all poor households and funds meant for such provisions need to be forthcoming on regularly basis.