PLACES are so chocked up or so confined that children don’t have a place to play and run around to vent their energy and be happy. Rather, they are more or less forced to live like adults with no childhood spontaneity.
This does not apply to Abuja alone where some estates don’t have a playground, it happens in our old cities as well where there used to be open spaces or squares that children would gather and play, but they were gradually taken over by some people who built on them.
Schools these days don’t have space, the little they have would be cleared for new classrooms or offices.
Gone are the days of large school areas where sports events were played. Unfortunately, even these old schools have been encroached and the lands allocated to some people where they build houses.
In any case, to avoid being hit by a car, or to avoid damaging other residents’ property, some estates have prevented children from playing football or riding bicycles.
However, some still do, because the children have to go out from their apartments from time to time, apart from going to school. They like to mingle with other children, forge friendships and learn from one another.
Besides, the little space that is supposed to serve as a playground has become a parking space, apart from the allocated parking space for the residents.
While in some, they squeeze in commercial activities and put containers or kiosks, doing everything to occupy whatever space there is.
Yet, parents are admonished not to allow their children to sit all day watching television or playing games in order to avoid obesity and other ailments. They are advised to rather let their children outdoors to play and get some exercise. Which outdoors when places are so confined? Or are children’s park the answer?
People take their children to the parks usually on festive occasions like Sallah and Christmas, and may be, on occasional weekends. Therefore, it is not convenient to expect parents to take their children to the parks just to run around.
Perhaps, gymnasiums would also provide another option, which is not convenient as well. It is even odd to take healthy children to the gym in order to have exercise because of lack of space for them to do so.
There is not the natural impulsiveness and freedom. At the gym they would be under an instructor and timed.
Some may have observed that if you go to some houses with a large space or even a garden with children, they would go around exploring and climbing trees. They are happy to be set free, so to speak.
Future buildings must take that into consideration, though you see prototypes of new estates with beautiful playground for children, it would not be a surprise that it is converted to some building later. This is how bad the welfare of children is taken.
As for our old cities, it may be too late; spaces are overtaken by houses and shops and even being outrightly turned into neighbourhood markets with the authorities doing nothing. They don’t care or they are afraid of being accused of denying poor people their sources of income by preventing them to use the space.
And since we are in a democracy, many infractions that would not be ordinarily tolerated are accommodated so as not to lose votes or give a weapon to your opponent to use against you. At the end, children are short-changed and everybody seems happy in a twisted way.
In some places, it may be due to lack of planning, but it is usually lack of adhering to due process. Our old cities too have a Master Plan, which many have never heard of, but only associated with Abuja. And in those states where new layouts are opened, there are provisions from playground, police station and so on, but they are given to other people and converted to residences.
Children need a place to call their own and their overall welfare should be considered by parents and the authorities. It is not enough to be concerned with only their studies; they need a place to play.