Stalled for 20 years: University of Ghana’s Performing Arts building left to rot



A blanket of dust, as thick as the memories it enshrines, engulfs the visitor. The air, once filled with the promise of creative zeal, now hangs heavy with the weight of years of desolation.

The relentless march of time has allowed debris to colonise every nook and cranny. Cobwebs hang loosely, swaying gently in the humid air.

Inside the 20 years abandoned University of Ghana school of Performing Art multi-purpose building.
Inside the 20-year abandoned University of Ghana School of Performing Arts’ Multi-Purpose Facility. Photo Credit: Clement Edward Kumsah/The Fourth Estate

This is the School of Performing Arts’ Multi-Purpose Arts Facility which sod cutting, and subsequent construction began 20 years ago, but now stands as a haunting testament of neglect at the University of Ghana.

“I just think we are not anybody’s priority. People don’t think the arts deserve the best,” the Acting Dean of the School of Performing Arts, Prof. Awo Mana Asiedu, lamented to The Fourth Estate.

“I don’t think the science building would be left for this long. But I say, take the performing arts out of society and we will all be miserable. Imagine a society without music, dance, or performance. What kind of society would that be? We are the soul, but we are being neglected,” she posited.

President John Agyekum Kufuor cut sod for the construction of the facility in 2004.

It was designed to have spaces for practical courses in music, dance, and theatre, as well as rehearsal rooms, costume storage, offices, and faculty spaces.

However, 20 years after breaking the ground, the building has become a ‘white elephant.’

Side view of the abandoned University of Ghana school of Performing Art Multi-Purpose Arts Facility with mounted air conditioner inverters left at the mercy of the weather
Side view of the abandoned University of Ghana School of Performing Arts’ Multi-Purpose Facility with mounted air conditioner inverters left at the mercy of the weather. Photo Credit: Clement Edward Kumsah/The Fourth Estate

According to contract documents obtained from the University of Ghana, when the contract was awarded to Micsat Limited in 2004 it was to cost a little over GHS18.5 million.

“They kept increasing the scope of work and demanding more money for it,” a source at the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund), which is the financier of the project, told The Fourth Estate on condition of anonymity.

“GETFund couldn’t cope with the demands because we had projects across the country that were equally financially demanding,” the source said.

Frustrated students, unhappy industry experts

Arial view of the University of Ghana School of Performing Art. Photo Credit: Clement Edward Kumsah/The Fourt Estate.
Arial view of the University of Ghana School of Performing Arts. Photo Credit: Clement Edward Kumsah/The Fourth Estate

The only studio for the school, the Efua T. Sutherland Drama Studio, serves as a hub for research, workshops, and performances.

However, its outdoor design makes it susceptible to weather disruptions, leading to cancelled rehearsals and unfeasible productions during unfavourable conditions.

The only mirror room used by hundreds of students at the school has the mirrors, tiles and lights broken.

For a level 400 student, Sarah Doh, the absence of the facility is frustrating, just as it is for many other students.

She told The Fourth Estate that the lack of a dedicated space hampers her ability to hone her craft through practical experiences, a vital component of her education.

“That building was there before I came to this school. We just don’t know what has happened to it because it’s rotting while we need a place to learn and do our practicals,” she said. “The completion of that building [will be] a crucial step towards nurturing a vibrant and thriving community of performing artists at the university because we need it so badly.

“Our collective plea is not merely for a building but for a creative sanctuary that fosters growth, innovation, and the realisation of [our] artistic aspirations as students of performing arts,” she noted.

Popular actor and Team Lead for Image Bureau, George Quaye, an alumnus of the School of Performing Arts, told The Fourth Estate that failure to complete the facility is a blight on the creative arts industry.

Team Lead, Image Bureau, George Quaye

“The absence of such a facility hampers the development of the arts industry, limits opportunities for artists, and hinders the potential economic benefits that a thriving arts sector can bring to the country,” he said. “It’s even worse when one considers the fact that the nation is currently grappling with lack of venues for events.”

Using internally generated funds on rent

The administrative set up of the University of Ghana creates a competitive environment where each school/college is compelled to be financially viable to invest in infrastructure, programmes and activities.

Acting Dean of the School of Performing Arts, Prof. Awo Mana Asiedu
Acting Dean of the School of Performing Arts, Prof. Awo Mana Asiedu

This means that other schools/colleges in the university don’t give out their spaces including conference facilities out for free. The School of Performing Arts is, therefore, forced to rent spaces from other departments of the university.

 That, Prof Asiedu said, can be financially draining as the school spends a lot of its internally generated funds on renting space for its events.

“We are going to hold two international conferences in July this year. We were hoping that this auditorium will be completed so that we will use it for our preliminary sessions and so on. But look at it, we can’t use it.” She lamented.

“We had to pay money to other departments, such as the Economics Department, having to pay over GHS100,000 for the spaces for those conferences. So that is money we could have used for something else for the conference. We are losing money because that building is not completed,” she revealed.


GETFUND announced in May 2022 that it had obtained Parliamentary approval to finalise all projects that were awarded before 2017, “within the upcoming three years.”
However, the Deputy Director of Physical Planning and Municipal Services Directorate (PDMSD) at the University of Ghana, Mr Peter Abalansah, told The Fourth Estate that the project’s completion had stalled due to “lack of funding” from GETFund.

He said if the project is to continue today, it would need an additional GHS20 million to be completed. That will double the project’s cost.

“The consultants are yet to provide the information on payments made to date,” Mr Abalansah responded when asked about the amount spent on the project since construction began.

When The Fourth Estate contacted GETFund to find out why the project had delayed, it said its tertiary projects were financed through the Ghana Tertiary Education Commission (GTEC) and therefore it does not speak on stalled projects.

Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund), the Financier of University of Ghana School of Performing Arts Abandoned Facility.
Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund), the Financier Responsible for the completion of the University of Ghana School of Performing Arts Abandoned Facility.

The Head of Project Management at GTEC, Mr Anthony Debre, said that historically, universities in Ghana operated autonomously in terms of project financing until GTEC instituted a policy of project financing.

He said each year, GETFUND allocated funding to universities, which then determined their project priorities. This autonomy, according to him, sometimes resulted in projects being initiated and later abandoned after changes in university leadership.

Mr Debre said that cash flow constraints, as well as changes in university leadership, had impacted the progress of the facility at the School of Performing Arts, leading to shifts in project priorities.

He said GTEC did not have direct control over the execution of specific projects. He added that the University of Ghana was responsible for selecting and managing contractors for its projects.

UG, rich enough to complete project

 Regarding the university’s resources, Mr Debre encouraged institutions like the University of Ghana, which had significantly increased their student intake and generated substantial funds internally, to allocate a portion of these funds to complete existing projects.

“If GETFund has invested in the University of Ghana and now it has been able to increase its intake from 18,000 to almost 80,000, they should be able to use the money. They should be able to allocate a percentage from every department to clear all projects on campus,” he said.

“GETFund was financing your project, and you [University of Ghana] were building a multi-million-dollar stadium. When the government wanted to use it for the African games, they came to top it up and complete it. So, you [University of Ghana] can also complete anything that GETFund started on your campus,” he stressed.

Engineer’s warning

However, the issue may not just be about completing a project that has been abandoned for 20 years. The Institution of Engineering and Technology, Ghana, is worried that the structure might have suffered from physical defects due to years of neglect, making physical assessment and inspection necessary to identify potential dangers lurking beneath the brick and mortar.

“Because of years of abandonment, the facility may have been exposed to weather and environmental factors, which could have implications for its structural integrity. A thorough assessment is required to determine whether the building should be demolished or continued, similar to what happened at Okomfo Anokye where a building was proposed for demolition after its integrity assessment,” President of the Institution, Henry Kwadwo Boateng, told The Fourth Estate.

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President, The Institution of Engineering and Technology, Ghana, Henry Kwadwo Boateng

He said the delay in completing the structure would significantly impact the project’s overall cost, adding that factors such as currency depreciation, time value of money, and the deterioration of materials and equipment would lead to additional expenses.

To ensure the completion of the building and save cost, Mr Boateng suggested that if the assessed cost surpasses a certain threshold, the project could be terminated, repackaged, and awarded to the same or a different contractor.

However, this approach might come with disadvantages such as potential legal disputes, he warned.

Mr Boateng suggested that passionate appeals to the government can be a major avenue to get the project completed. While it may not be easy to obtain external loans for such abandoned projects, alternatives such as government guarantees for the university to secure loans could be explored, he said.

Micsat Limited, the construction company handling the project, did not respond to The Fourth Estate’s requests for an interview.


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