I was not in the least surprised to hear that the Children’s Park in Kumasi has become a haven for prostitutes, armed robbers and other miscreants. I was not amused to hear that the place which was to serve as a recreational and learning ground for our children has become a free range toilet for some members of the public. As usual, this is a tradition that is being observed.
The Children’s Park in Kumasi is just one of the numerous public facilities that have suffered neglect and left to rot with time. In the 1970s, the government of General I. K. Acheampong built the Kaneshie Sports Complex to serve the sporting needs of Kaneshie and its environs.
The place was designed to have playing fields for various sporting events including football, the nation’s most favourite game, and for indoor games. It also had hostel facilities to serve the camping purposes of our national teams.
It did not take long for the place to become the venue for major sporting events including international boxing tournaments. One would have thought that for its strategic importance for developing the talents of the youth apart from its recreational value, the Kaneshie Sports Complex would be developed to a higher standard beyond how the Acheampong regime left it.
Unfortunately, the place suffered total neglect until the mention of Kaneshie Sports Complex conjured images of criminal gangs, wild reptiles and mosquitoes in the minds of those who know the place very well and have had regular contact with it.
President J.A. Kufuor, in his genuine desire to honour some of our sporting heroes, decided to name the Kaneshie Sports Complex after Azumah ‘Zoom Zoom’ Nelson, the only professor of boxing in the country. One would have expected that the place will undergo a massive transformation before or after this honour. As it is now, I wonder if Azumah Nelson will feel honoured for having such a decrepit place as the Kaneshie Sports Complex named after him.
At the same time that former President Kufuor was doing honour to Azumah Nelson for his exploits in boxing, he honoured Mr Charles Kumi Gyamfi, arguably one of the best footballers, coaches and football administrators this country has ever had, by naming the Winneba Sports College after him.
Unfortunately, that was also another run-down national facility that does not do justice to the stature of C.K. Gyamfi. The good intentions notwithstanding, the deplorable conditions at the Azumah Nelson Sports Complex and the C.K. Gyamfi Sports College at Winneba have debased the spirit behind the change of name.
The Azumah Nelson Sports Complex which bears the name of a great boxer should have been provided with a modern gym to groom the up-and-coming ones, to rekindle interest in the sport and to make it more possible to raise more boxers with the pedigree of Azumah Nelson and even better.
The same can be said of the C.K. Gyamfi Sports College. The name should have conjured images of a soccer icon whose exploits both as a footballer and football coach were unmatched in the nation’s history. But the college named after a great footballer lacks the facilities that would inspire young budding stars and serve as a great monument and a symbol of Ghana’s achievements in football on the continent and on the world stage.
So if these facilities dedicated to two great sports personalities could be left to their fate, if the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum in the heart of the capital could suffer neglect, why should anyone be surprised that playgrounds dedicated to children could be turned into brothels and havens for criminals?
The story of the other children parks in the country is not different from the Kumasi one. Even the Efua Sutherland Park in Accra has not been spared the neglect. Most of the time, the place is in total darkness and only comes to life occasionally on national holidays.
Elsewhere, the Efua Sutherland Park or the Accra Children’s Park should have been a beehive of daily activity. It should have been boasting a library and other educational facilities in addition to recreational activities where working mothers could conveniently leave their children while attending to their money-chasing activities.
It will not be surprising if Efua Sutherland Park, like the Kumasi Children’s Park and others in the regional capitals, is serving more as a brothel and a sleeping place for lunatics than as a recreational and educational ground for children. Culture of neglect at its best.
The Kumasi story ended on a promising note. The Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, has expressed his intention to take over the development of the park to bring it back to life. Knowing the Asantehene’s position vis-à-vis education and children’s welfare, the Kumasi Children’s Park may be on the way to recovery. What about the rest?