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Opinions of Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Columnist: Ayamga, Elizabeth Alampae

Attend to leisure needs of the youth

Elizabeth Alampae Ayamga

As young people, leisure time gives us the chance to define and understand our identity, explore our culture and learn more about the world around us. Where our leisure needs are not met, there is a greater chance that we may engage in high-risk activities that threaten our wellbeing. High levels of youth unemployment and the rising costs of higher education highlight the need for leisure time activities to be viewed in the context of the personal growth and the development of our communities.

It is so fascinating to get into communities especially in the villages, towns and mostly slums and you come across structures with inscriptions like “Parliament House, Village Court, Ahenfie, Boyz Boyz” among others. You enter into these structures and it will amaze you the kind of issue, from national to local politics, sports, community development issues that are discussed by the youth after which they take up some sporting activities. This shows you how important leisure times are to the youthful population.
I happened to have entered the “Parliament House” at the Abura Roman School Park in Cape Coast and the topic for discussion was on a Community Centre that is being built for the youth of Abura around the Central Regional Hospital. Surprisingly, almost every individual inside the structure was singing the same song. Which song were they singing? Well, their concern was that although the Youth Centre is a good project, it is situated directly under a telecommunication mast belonging to one of the communication network companies in Ghana. Knowing the health risks of this situation, the only question I posed was, “so why didn’t you say it before they started building the structures for you?” The answer I was getting obviously tells me that the youth that the Centre was meant to serve were not consulted by the policy makers.
This brings to fore the need to involve the youth in decision making which has been hammered on extensively by the Youth Manifesto on page 20.
There have been times where the elderly and policy makers in society see these structures as belonging to gangsters who stay in it to perpetuate crime, but the truth is, it is not always so. The youth create these structures for themselves because they don’t have access to modern recreational facilities. Youth groups and Organisations who patronize the said structures could be integrated into sports activities, recreation, and even cycle them into urban and suburban development plans. Sports contribute not only to one's health and a positive self-image, but can also serve as a platform for inclusion.

In this age of massive youth unemployment, there is the need for government to support leisure-time activities for youth by facilitating access to public places such as schools and theatres for the youth to hold meetings, pursue creative interests and carry on leisure time activities. Existing facilities for youth should also be maintained and improved to sustain the activities of the youth over time.

In doing all these, developing leisure activities for youth with disabilities should not be neglected. Youth with disabilities need to access opportunities to develop their physical fitness and gain self-confidence. Disabled youth may require specialised transportation to facilitate their participation in sports and the arts.

Leisure time contributes to the development of human and social capital as it provide opportunity to expand ones skills and create social networks. Our leisure needs must be considered also in urban and rural development planning so that a range of constructive voluntary opportunities are built into the country’s landscape. Due to the lack of appreciation of the role of leisure in our lives, initiatives and space for leisure are often the first to get cut when budgets get tight. However, the elimination or under-funding of extracurricular or recreational programmes can endanger our physical, emotional and social wellbeing.

This is why the Voices of Youth Coalition is advocating for government to consider some of these issues, believing that they will help in the development of the Ghanaian youth.