A parade organised to mark the 60th anniversary of Ghana’s liberation from colonial control in 1957 has passed in the Upper East region with scores of schoolchildren resorting to what observers have described as “very risky platforms” to catch a glimpse of proceedings.
The biggest celebration of the Independence Day in the region, held in its capital, Bolgatanga, originally was scheduled to start at 7:00am Monday at the Golden Jubilee Park. The venue was changed on the morning of the event after organisers reportedly had realised that the space would not accommodate the anticipated crowd.
The planning committee fell on the Ramsey Sports Stadium, a fenceless facility formerly known (and still referred to) as St. John’s Park about 200 metres away, at the time the original venue was half-way prepared and some of the schools selected for the march-past had arrived. But for the limited capacity and the fear of a possible stampede, the Golden Jubilee Park would have made a good choice of venue as it has roofed galleries for spectators and a paved yard.
The final venue is more spacious but less attractive. It has no fence walls- so, everywhere is an exit point in the event of any emergency- but it has no shelter for the crowd except a shed for dignitaries only. There is enough space to park but no seats except a few leather pieces of furniture for VIPs and plastic chairs for special guests.
Firemen gushed out streams of water from fire tenders to snuff out indomitable dust from the grassless field (another cost to the taxpayer) before the procession, involving all the security agencies and 50 schools, got underway. The stubborn dust returned time after time, thanks to an angry sun whose full blaze sapped all the water in the ground and rendered the efforts of the fire servicemen ‘a waste of resources’.
Owing to the lack of theatre seating at the Ramsey Sports Stadium, scores of schoolchildren, who could not see proceedings from behind the huge crowd, devised their own stands so as to be part of Ghana’s observance of her sixth decade of sovereignty.
Starr News caught a number of them waving the anniversary flags from treetops as they were taking a ‘drone view’ of the event from the delicate branches of mostly tall ornamental plants. Some, who said they were also around just to catch a glimpse of the new Regional Minister, were caught watching from the edge of the top floor of a nearby yet-to-be-completed Roman Catholic basilica. Some climbed the basilica’s top floor with bicycles and rode adventurously round the full circumference of the building. The edge of the structure does not have a protective rail yet. A possible collision among the young riders at that top could have thrown the region into a tragedy on Independence Day.
I changed the venue to save lives – Regional Minister
Meanwhile, the Upper East Regional Minister, Rockson Ayine Bukari, has made it known to Starr News that he was behind the late change of venue and that he called for it to save lives that could have been lost if the event had taken place at the original scene.
“This is of national dimension and you have such a facility like [the] Independence Square in Accra. But here we don’t have it. The Jubilee Park is too small. If it had taken place there, it would have been worse; people would have lost their lives. So I decided that they should not make it there because the Jubilee Park is too small. It is by the road. You can’t block it. It’s a high street. If you block it, trouble for government. Road users would complain bitterly.
“We can’t prevent people from climbing trees. What do we do? That one is impossible. We only have to talk to the teachers to advise their children that it’s a risky thing to climb trees to watch what is happening,” he said in an interview moments after he had addressed 50 students at an independence anniversary banquet held at his official residence Monday afternoon.
He had counselled the students to help improve the literacy rate and the standards of education in the region by taking their studies seriously and by encouraging their colleagues to take full advantage of the free senior high education service the new government had promised Ghanaians. Two respected educationists in the region, Robert Ajene and David Adenze-Kangah, also had taken turns to address the students. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the management of the Next Generation Home, proprietors of the Ramsey Sports Stadium, for the lack of resources, do not have immediate plans to erect stands and roofs at the facility.
Calls against open defecation dominate colourful parade
A delegation from Burkina Faso, Ghana’s neighbour to the north, led by two governors from that country, graced the parade in Bolgatanga.
As the schools filed past the regional minister, placards were displayed among other things shown throughout the procession that lasted about 40 minutes. The placards flew in the air with inscriptions that largely came out strongly against open defecation and poor waste management practices.
“Stop open defecation,” one placard, lifted by a schoolboy in a white shirt and khaki shorts, boldly reads. Another message inscribed with yellow chalk says: “Good sanitation promotes healthy living.” A schoolgirl, wearing a white shirt with a miniature Ghana flag tucked inside her black skirt at the waist, bore a piece of wood with a message chalked in blue: “Together we can make Ghana clean.”
The address the regional minister read on behalf of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo only after the march-past hardly sank in the ears of the tired-looking students who were rather interested in the refreshment packages their respective schools had brought to the parade ground. Whilst a number of them at least looked satisfied with seeing their new regional minister face to face for the first time, some also probably did not miss what the regional director of education, Jane Sebina Obeng, told the anniversary crowd before the march-past interval that came off before the minister’s address.
“We must focus very serious attention on the quality of our education. There is a need for paradigm shift in the attitude of each of us towards funding and running of education in this country. If we must be seen to be making any progress, then all of us- government, traditional rulers, religious leaders, politicians, the media, teachers, parents, civil society and the security who are stakeholders- must see the education of our youth as key and make the needed contributions towards reversing the downward trends in the performances of pupils and students at BECE and WASSCE.
“We may not live to see the future if we do not take very good care of our environment, considering the disturbing atmospheric changes caused by our continuous littering, galamsey (illegal mining) activities and indiscriminate bush burning to mention a few, our future is indeed seriously at risk,” she warned in an address that pointed sharply at the theme of the independence anniversary celebration- Mobilising for Ghana’s Future.