When the government contacted the Paramount Chief of Bongo, Naba Baba Salifu Atamale Lemyaarum, about a decade ago for a piece of land to put up a community information centre, he gladly granted the request without hesitation.
He welcomed the project as a way of improving computer literacy in the Bongo District.
But his joy gave way to regret when the government abandoned the project after completion.
“It was going to be an ICT centre and a post office at the same time. The place was fully constructed. Many years down the line, there has been no handover until it deteriorated,” he told The Fourth Estate.
The land was given for free. But the structure took thousands of Ghana cedis to construct.
“How can we in this country do all these things? We waste so much money to put up a facility but at the end of the day nothing is done,” complained the chief.
While the chief is lamenting the deterioration of the centre, several state-run schools in the district do not have computers for their information communication technology (ICT) lessons.
One such school―Abelinzanga Junior High School― uses a table drawer to represent a central processing unit (CPU) during ICT sessions.
The school is situated near Ghana’s border with Burkina Faso and has children from communities in the French-speaking country joining their Ghanaian counterparts every day to learn.
The schoolchildren say they have never seen a desktop computer and how it works.
Despite the lack of a computer, the children write ICT as a subject at the crucial Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) every year.
“It is even closer to the Bongo Senior High School and a cluster of schools,” said the chief, referring to the state-abandoned community information centre.
“The schools would have made good use of the facility, especially if computers are put there and the internet is connected to the it.”
Church takes over Bongo’s community information centre
For some years, the community information centre in Bongo stood in ruins after its completion in 2012.
The building was converted by some faceless persons into a brothel. Used condoms were often spotted in the rooms.
A section of the facility also became a public place of convenience. And by 2017, about 450 louvre blades and several doors had gone missing from the structure.
At present, the Reconciliation Power Ministry has taken over the building. The Fourth Estate recently joined the church’s regular worshippers for a Sunday service. The ceiling and other fittings have peeled off despite the fact that it has never been used for its intended purpose since completion.
Bush and reptiles take over Navrongo’s community information centre
The community information centre in Bongo is not the only such facility that government has constructed and abandoned.
There are several other places across the country where the government, in the interest of bridging the digital literacy gap, constructed the facilities through the Ghana Investment Fund Electronic Communications (GIFEC).
The community information centre in Navrongo in the Kassena-Nankana Municipality is currently rotting away.
The centre stands in ruins on a bushy plot along the main road that leads to the main Ghana-Burkina Faso border at Paga. A pair of gates that was mounted at the facility for security purposes has lost one of its wings. The wing is fallen and rusting on the ground. The damaged side allows anybody into the unkempt compound at any time.
The burglarproof bars erected across the doors are padlocked. One of the bars fixed against the louvred windows is partly broken. The wire mesh behind that broken bar is bent in a manner that suggests the centre might have been raided and looted. The bars and their padlocks themselves are rusting away.
The life that once drew the public to the centre has gone missing. For now, the occupants of the facility are insects― some of which have made mu d nests on the building― and lizards― which hang out there regularly to feed on the insects.
The only part of the facility that still appears to be in shape is its wire-mesh fence. But one of the metal poles that support the fence is bent frontwards. That pole is about to fall completely.
Community information centre in Talensi turned into dumping ground
Entering the community information centre in Talensi, a mineral-rich district in the Upper East Region, to check its state was riskier.
There is widespread filth inside the centre’s multiple rooms. While going around the facility, The Fourth Estate sighted in those rooms women’s handbags, National Identification Authority (NIA) cards, voter identity cards, e-zwich biometric smartcards, hats, footwear, clothes and empty beer bottles among other items scattered all over the place.
The white inner parts of the building’s walls are covered in graffiti, scribbled anonymously with charcoal. A number of the doors, generally coated with blue gloss paint, hang half-broken, with their remaining halves still hinged to their doorposts. Overhead are sections of a plywood ceiling, rotting away.
All the sockets are switchless and are partly covered in dust and cobwebs. Wires of different colours and lengths, untidily twisted together, stick out from some of the sockets in large quantities like the fibrous roots of a mature plant thoroughly exposed by soil erosion.
GES takes possession of Nabdam’s community information centre
The community information centre built by the Mills administration in Nabdam, another district in the Upper East Region, stands on the edge of an ECOWAS road.
It is located in Kongo, the hometown of the current Member of Parliament (MP) for Nabdam, Dr Mark Kurt Nawaane.
The facility was reportedly well furnished― and it once functioned. It was offering training among other key services to members of the Nabdam communities, per the information The Fourth Estate gathered.
But things ground to a halt at the facility after a new government took over in 2017. For a long time, the building was under lock and key.
Later, the centre became a ‘free guest house’ for any tertiary students who chose the district to undertake field programmes and needed temporary accommodation during their presence in the district.
Even with the tertiary students occasionally lodging there, the ‘free guest house’ was denied the maintenance it needed.
The decay process was cut short when the MP, reportedly out of goodwill, renovated the structure for the Ghana Education Service (GES) in 2018. The GES currently has no office block of its own in the district.
The MP redesigned and rebranded the abandoned community information centre and handed it to the GES. That is where the district education office is housed today. But the whereabouts of the centre’s equipment are unknown.
“It was left there. Rodents and reptiles practically took over the place. Externally it was looking like a building but we had to change a lot of things― the roofing sheets, the woodwork, wiring, painting and plumbing work.
“I used my GETFund (Ghana Education Trust Fund). I practically used the whole money, which was about Gh¢60,000 to renovate the place. It was a lot of money at that time. We secured the permission of the District Assembly before we did that renovation,” the MP told The Fourth Estate.
GNAT secures room in abandoned community information centre in Bawku West
When The Fourth Estate met Ali Mudasiru, a middle-aged shopkeeper, along a road in Zebilla, the hilly capital of the Bawku West District, and asked him for directions to the community information centre in the area, his immediate answer was a question.
“What are you going there to do?”
“Somebody just wants to meet with those in charge,” replied The Fourth Estate.
Without further question, he burst into a prolonged gurgle of laughter.
“Oh, boy! I’ve not seen anybody there since I came to settle in this district many years ago,” he said as his laughter faded out. “The place has been locked for a very long time.”
When The Fourth Estate entered the premises, the amount of dust and the thickness of the cobwebs seen on the doors of the centre confirmed the clue in Mudasiru’s laughter.
The structure is designed to accommodate both the community information centre and a district office of the Ghana Post. The postal office on that block is operating. But the side meant for the community information centre is firmly locked.
Nonetheless, the Ghana Post has a neighbour on the block― the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), which occupies an inner section of the structure.
Mentally ill man resides in abandoned community information centre in Bolgatanga
The block constructed for the community information centre in Sandema, capital of the Builsa North Municipality, is not being used for the original purpose.
It is found next to a building used as a base by the Builsa North Municipal Police Command.
A person travelling on the main road from Navrongo to the office block of the Builsa North Municipal Assembly would come to the structure just before turning right towards the assembly’s premises.
Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED), a non-governmental organisation, is using the building as its office quarters.
The signboard of the National Youth Authority (NYA) is on the frontage of the structure. The NYA occupied the building some time ago, The Fourth Estate learns. But despite the fact that the structure is occupied by the charity organisation, it still looks abandoned― particularly when the doors are closed.
“It’s embarrassing that ICT is no longer in the building. The computers are no more in the building,” remarked the Assembly Member for the Sandema Abil-Yeri Electoral Area, Malik Adaambiik.
The community information centre in the Bolgatanga Municipality is in the same state as the one in the Bawku West District.
The abandoned building is along the main highway in Bolgatanga, facing a yet-to-be-developed large piece of land near the municipal office of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA).
While some windows are without louvre blades, lamp holders are hanging without bulbs from the ceilings and the walls. A room with a broken burglarproof and without a door has been converted into a store where commercial firewood is kept.
There is no one inside the structure except a calm mentally ill young man who regularly sleeps on its veranda and wakes up every morning to write down his ideas and thoughts on one of the many crumpled pieces of paper mostly found around him.
From ‘the White House’ to ‘a White Elephant’― the state of the centre in Tumu
The condition of the red-roofed community information centre in Sissala East, a district in the Upper West Region, is of worry to residents, including the MP for the Sissala East Constituency, Amidu Chinnia Issahaku.
The abandoned structure is found beside a police station on the Hilla Limann Road.
Its spotless all-white coat and the round twin pillars in front had inspired some residents to label it “the White House”.
Many say it was such a delight to the eye until it was abandoned to rot away. Surrounded by a wire-mesh fence, the structure is seen today as a blot on a road named after a former president of Ghana.
After losing its original glow, the building also lost its popular tag― “the White House”. But because it is still white, some residents now refer to it in its abandoned state as “a white elephant”.
“There is a collaboration between GIFEC and the Assembly to do it,” the MP for the Sissala East Constituency told The Fourth Estate.
“The Assembly was supposed to provide some materials for rehabilitation; then, GIFEC would bring in computers and other accessories. The assembly didn’t fulfill its part. I have spoken with the [fellow] from GIFEC. We are talking so that the assembly can provide those materials and, then, they can do it.”
The staff of Yendi’s community information centre are unknown
The staff of the community information centre in Wa still come to work.
Situated opposite the Upper West Regional Library, the structure still looks fairly good, too.
But the centre has been stomaching some chronic challenges in silence. It has no funds to repair damaged machines. There is no cash to restore its collapsed internet service. And, for lack of funds, it has suspended the training programmes it is mandated to undertake for the general public.
Tamale, the Northern Region’s metropolitan capital, has its community information centre constructed only a few metres away from the premises of the High Courts. The facility is operational. But just as is the situation in Wa, the centre in Tamale is plagued by a longstanding internet blackout.
The community information centre in Yendi, a municipality in the Northern Region, shares the same condition as its remote counterpart in the Bawku West District. It is another property that has been forsaken by its proprietor― the government.
Three other agencies coexist in that building, providing some crucial services to the area. A branch of the Ghana Post, which was commissioned in 2012, occupies a front section of the square-shaped structure. The backside of the building is shared by the Ghana National Service Scheme (GNSS) and a media firm, Dasuma Radio.
The doors of the facility were padlocked and layered with dust when The Fourth Estate visited Yendi. The other agencies were busy in their own corners. None of the officials of those agencies could tell the whereabouts of the centre’s staff.
The Presiding Member of the Yendi Municipal Assembly, Hussein Abdul-Karim, benefited from one of the training programmes the centre organised before it suddenly ceased to operate. He is among a number of persons who feel sad today in the municipality about the state of the facility.
“Their machines broke down. They wrote to the government for support but up to date [no favourable action has been taken]. The machines are not working. That’s why we are where we are. Nothing is going on there for more than 8 years now. Meanwhile, it is the taxpayer’s money they used in buying all these things,” he lamented.
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