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Chapter 5 – Vigilance 
Guardians of the Digital Realm: Safe Online and UNICEF Ghana's Journey of Protecting Children from Cyber Predators

In the field of online child protection in Ghana, efforts go beyond traditional methods, embracing innovative teaching techniques that effectively engage and educate. Teachers are incorporating new approaches to teaching digital literacy, transforming classrooms into stages where drama meets education. Imagine this: students and teachers collaboratively penning scripts that bring to life the very real dangers of the online world, like grooming and sexual extortion. Together, they step into the characters of their plays, transforming their lessons into thrilling theatre performances right in their schools.

With vibrant enthusiasm, a girl steps onto the stage holding a colourful paper labelled 'contact,' and alongside her, two fellow students, holding 'conduct,' and the last one holding 'content.' They form a trio embodying the essence of their drama lesson at Papase RC Basic School in Ghana. The sunny garden serves as their unconventional classroom as 13 to 17-year-old students prepare for an engaging lesson on the intricacies of internet usage and its potential risks. As the trio position themselves, the air is filled with anticipation, and the stage is set for a play that unfolds critical lessons about online child sexual abuse in a creative and entertaining manner.


The drama begins, with a girl and a boy acting out a scenario of bonding and the girl sharing private photos with him. The tension heightens as the boy starts threatening the girl for more pictures. The narrative takes a dark turn when the girl, feeling scared and unable to talk to anyone, decides to end her life. The garden falls silent.

Suddenly, the teacher emerges on the stage, breaking the silence with a conversation that echoes throughout the garden. "What I learned is..." begins one student after another. "I should not send private information and images," voices one, while another emphasises, "If this happens, I should be able to speak to a trusted adult." The lessons continue – "I learned that I should be smart online," "I learned that the internet never forgets."

Engaged and enlightened, the actors on stage hold papers that read '292,' signifying a lifeline for those in need. "I am 292, call or text when you do not feel safe," they declare, offering support to their peers. As the teachers join them on stage, the reflections continue, reinforcing the importance of online safety. The teacher seizes the moment, reminding the students, "Whatever you learn today, share this with your friends and be ambassadors of online safety." The garden echoes with the collective determination of these young minds to create a safer digital space for themselves and their peers.

The performance is a dynamic, interactive way for students to grasp the seriousness of online child sexual exploitation.

As they watch their peers perform, the audience are entertained – and they're integrally involved and engaged, absorbing critical lessons about these pressing issues. These sessions don’t end with the curtain call. Post-performance, teachers lead a vital dialogue, quizzing students about the storyline, discussing the right steps to take in such situations – like confiding in a trusted adult, and the dangers of sharing private information online. Plans are underway to expand this engaging approach to furthest areas of Ghana, truly setting the stage for a safer, more informed digital generation.

Thanks to the funding and collaborative efforts of Safe Online, the cornerstone of UNICEF Ghana's initiative is the crafting of a National Plan of Action. This robust strategy is designed to tackle online child sexual exploitation and abuse head-on. 


Adopting a forward-thinking stance, UNICEF Ghana works in close partnership with the National Cybersecurity Crime Centre, weaving child protection seamlessly into the fabric of Ghana's national cybersecurity agenda. A significant highlight of Safe Online's impact is their role in the enactment of the Cybersecurity Act 2020, a legislative milestone notably shaped by their support. The Honourable Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, Minister of Communications and Digitalisation of Ghana, underscores its critical role, asserting, "The Cybersecurity Act 2020 is a crucial advancement towards creating a safer digital environment for children in Ghana." This Act, developed in collaboration with UNICEF Ghana, not only replaces older laws but also facilitates the creation of the Cybersecurity Authority. This body is tasked with overseeing and promoting cybersecurity measures across the nation, further solidifying Ghana's commitment to a secure and progressive digital future for all its citizens.

"We worked together with UNICEF to integrate an act devoted to online child sexual abuse in our national law. We identify and address online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (CSEA), and from this point onwards, we now can take governmental measures on tackling this issue. This is a highly essential step formulated by the Cybersecurity Authority to protect our children online and their future." Alexander Oppong, Head of Capacity Building and Awareness Creation - Cyber Security Authority (CSA), Ghana.
Safe Online, in collaboration with UNICEF Ghana, has played a central role in enhancing Ghana's response to online child sexual exploitation and abuse, exemplified by this significant legislative change with the approval of the Cybersecurity Act 2020. This Act represents a major success in creating a safer digital environment for Ghana's children, reflecting the multi-sectoral support provided by Safe Online and its commitment to help protect the nation's digital future.

The Act is put into action through teamwork between the government, the Ghana Police Service, and the Cybersecurity Authority. They focus on important tasks like improving the cyber tip line and working on notice-and-takedown procedures with telecommunication companies. The cyber tip line lets people anonymously report online issues like child exploitation or cybercrime. Notice-and-takedown procedures mean that if someone reports illegal content, online service providers have to remove it or block access to it after getting a formal request. This holistic approach is vital for combating child sexual abuse online. Joyce Odame, the Child Protection Officer, UNICEF Ghana, emphasises the Act's significance, saying, "The Cybersecurity Act is a major move for UNICEF’s work on child online protection in Ghana, and provides for strengthened protection of children online."

"Today, we have integrated in our laws the section of online child sexual exploitation, which marks an important achievement in Ghana. We can take legal measures to fight against online CSEA in our country," shares Victoria Adotey, Prosecution Lead/Coordinator, Cybersecurity Authority Ghana.

Safe Online's multifaceted support extends beyond legislative changes. It encompasses educational initiatives and the strengthening of law enforcement capabilities. In the educational sphere, Safe Online's impact is evident through initiatives like the LifeSkills App on Digital Literacy. This app is part of the Digital Literacy Package for schools, designed to equip children with essential digital literacy and resilience skills.

"Through our LifeSkills App, developed in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Ghana Education Service, and UNICEF Ghana, we're taking a significant step towards enhancing digital literacy among the youth in Ghana. Targeted at students aged 8 to 18, this app, which we're excited to pilot in the Greater Accra Region's schools, is not just an educational tool but an access to digital empowerment of our children. It features an engaging, game-based Digital Literacy Training module with 12 interactive lessons, a helpful chatbot, and an incident reporting tool, all designed to make learning about the digital world both effective and enjoyable. We're also extending our efforts to train school administrators, ensuring they're well-equipped to guide students in using the app. Moreover, we recognize the vital role of parents in this journey, and thus, we've planned targeted communications to educate them about online safety. Our goal with the LifeSkills app is clear: to equip the younger generation in Ghana with the necessary skills for a safe and responsible digital life." Kabiru Seidu, Programs Director, Nubian Foundation, shares with us while the children are enjoying playing the games during a class session in SawaDin Basic School in Accra.


"Playing the games on LifeSkills App shows me and my classmates how we can use the internet and be safe online. In our school, we play this game on tablets. There are our characters that we play through games in this app, and we discover what can be dangerous online. We learn how to respond to cases like, if someone we do not know tries to be friends with us, wants our private information, or how to protect our online presence. We learn how to identify harmful people and where to go in case we have an unpleasant case,"

shares Clement Attah, a 12-year-old student in SawaDin Basic School in Accra.


Another notable accomplishment stands out, and that is the establishment of the National Cybersecurity Challenge event (NCC). The NCC stands as a shining example of collaborative excellence, where the foresight of the Ghanaian Government and the strategic prowess of the Cyber Security Authority (CSA) converge with UNICEF Ghana's expertise. This cooperation, brought to life through Safe Online's funding, has set a new standard in cybersecurity education.

"I love to use my phone, and social media. Yes, there are risks using the internet, and I am aware of the potential harms we can experience that can be dangerous. I believe by being informed and educated, we can use the internet in a positive way. I want to understand, have the knowledge and inform my own family and friends about the benefits, as well as the risks of using the internet. I want to be an IT manager when I grow up, and be able to fully work on being safe online," shares Sarfo Michelle, a 13-year-old student in Kumasi, Ghana, during the National Cybersecurity Challenge event.

The annual high school competition’s primary goal is to elevate awareness of Cyber Security Best Practices among students, tackle the increasing issue of students' vulnerability online; empower them with the confidence, safety, and responsibility to engage with digital technology. To achieve this, high school children in Ghana dedicate a year to preparing with their Cybersecurity Club, engaging in comprehensive learning about online dangers and cybersecurity measures. They gather annually in a knowledge competition, where schools compete and one is crowned as the champion. The Cybersecurity Club is established in high schools, where children learn about the online risks and how to respond to these. "The Cyber Security Club is about teaching students, educating us on how to maintain or how to secure the internet connections and how to safely use the internet," shares Kevin, a 16-year-old student, who is a member of the club in his school. His motivation is to spread his knowledge about cybersecurity to all his friends, as much as possible.


Looking ahead, Safe Online will continue to support UNICEF Ghana in expanding these initiatives. This includes generating evidence on the implementation of the Cyber Security Act and the National Child Online Protection Framework, enhancing criminal justice, and fostering victim support and empowerment. This ongoing effort, in collaboration with the Cyber Security Authority, the Ghana Police Service, and relevant government Ministries, reinforces the commitment to a multi-sectoral approach in safeguarding children online.

The journeys of children like Sarfo Michelle, Kevin, and Clement are testaments to the effectiveness of these initiatives. Their stories illustrate the collaborative, innovative, and youth-focused approach of UNICEF Ghana and Safe Online in combating online threats and protecting the digital future for all of Ghana's children. Born from UNICEF Ghana's dedication to combating online child sexual exploitation, and catalysed by Safe Online's invaluable financial backing, this initiative is a striking reminder of what can be achieved when vision, commitment, and resources unite for the safety and empowerment of children in the digital world.

Watch our work in Ghana:

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