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What is worse, private schools have become the hardest hit in all this. It is estimated that about 36 thousand private schools have been affected by the continued closure of the schools with a ...

The 16th COVID-19 broadcast by President Akufo-Addo was highly anticipated for obvious reasons. First, was the issue of re-opening of the country’s airspace. Second, was the re-opening of schools for Basic school pupils and first- and second-year students to get back into the classroom for contact lessons to re-start to banish the “apparition” that has supposedly enveloped Ghana’s education system, since schools were shut way back in March.

Aviation staff and travelers got their bargain following the re-opening of the Kotoka International Airport for business to commence. Disappointed though were parents, pupils, teachers and stakeholders in education who had high expectation of the holistic reopening of schools. But all they got was a return to school of JHS 2 pupils and SHS 2 students, most of whom are complaining of rustiness despite of the e-learning that has become the new way of learning.

It was therefore, not surprising that the school reopening date quickly caught attention in the discourse that followed the President’s 15 minutes address to the nation. The partial re-opening this month has indeed seen a mixed reaction.  Whilst some parents and educational experts think government is unnecessarily stretching the COVID issue to shut schools, others are of the firm belief that, the right decisions are being taken by government.

Avid proponents of school re-opening believe the more the children stay at home, the more the impact becomes more severe for disadvantaged children and their parents, whose jobs have already been affected. Besides, it is causing interrupted learning, child care problems with their attendant financial burden on families. And so, the question that begs to be answered is whether government digested these issues critically before deciding to push back the re-opening date to January?

In Europe, particularly, Germany, Italy, UK, France among others, schools have been scheduled to re-open this autumn, with some already opened, relying on protocols such as social distancing and masks in order to scale down infections and avoid another blanket closure. In these countries, there are plans to shut down only individual ‘schools’ or ‘classes’ instead of a total shutdown, in the event of new infections.

On the African continent, a lot of schools have brought forward re-opening dates to September. Typical of these include, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. Nigeria for instance reopens schools in Lagos on September 14. Many continue to question why Ghana had to take a decision that continues to keep the children at home, having already spent more time with parents and nannies who themselves are at their wit ends because of the troubles the kids churn out daily at home. It is reckoned a lot of these kids have turned to gallivanting because the E-learning platform is not working the way it should, not forgetting it’s a new area in teaching and learning.

What is worse, private schools have become the hardest hit in all this. It is estimated that about 36 thousand private schools have been affected by the continued closure of the schools with a hundred thousand of their teachers already shown the exit. Private Schools have therefore called on government for a kind of stimulus package to enable them to stay afloat, until the day the COVID virus become history. But whilst at it, it is pertinent to ask what has happened to the committee put together by the Education Ministry to examine a proper re-opening date for schools? Has the President’s decision to open the schools in January nullified the committee’s work?  Their work seems to have become a ‘jigsaw’ in the latest decision by the President. What will they be doing now, following a tentative reopening date fixed by the President?

In all these however, one must not forget that COVID-19 remains a devastating force that has not yet been tamed. Returning the students to school at this critical time makes them susceptible to the disease. The President’s decision might be well-intentioned inspite of the disappointment of pupils and parents. What remains is for all to turn a perceived negative situation into a positive one. Some of the quick fixes to the problem will be the need to catch-up with all the missed contact hours by doubling up on extra tuition when schools finally re-open possibly in January. So, for now students must and will continue to stay at home and adjust to the new normal. Because the cost of contracting the virus may be dire for the pupils and students, their parents, families, society and indeed the entire Country. One can take a cue from the President’s statement that ‘’economies, or in this case, education can always be revived, but lifeless pupils and students cannot be brought back to life’’.


By Edmond Tetteh

Source: gbchanaonline