Member of Parliament for Builsa South Constituency, Dr. Clement is troubled about the reopening of schools across the country in spite of the rising Covid-19 cases in the country.
Duty call places a rather severe responsibility on all of us to protect generations to come, and in that spirit, I thank you for taking time to hear concerns regarding the reopening of schools in our dear Republic.
It has been a week since schools reopened. Prior to the reopening of schools after almost a year since they were closed following the dangers that the Covid-19 pandemic posed, and continues to pose, many concerns were raised which bordered on our readiness to take such a risky decision to send our young ones back to school en masse.
The purpose of this write up is to share the concerns that have come from stakeholders across Ghana:
1. Inadequate and late distribution of PPEs to schools. Even so, some schools are yet to receive PPEs; some have received only sanitizers, liquid soaps or both, but not nose masks. In several other schools, there is no running water.
In fact the same students who should be protected are made water carriers;
2. Overcrowding in schools remains another issue that has been brought to my attention. Several classes, especially, in the public schools, are overcrowded. Reports of class sizes exceeding eighty (80) students abound. Even more worrying is the inadequate furniture, which compels three to four students to share a dual desk, designed for two students.
Don’t forget that one of the critical protocols in the prevention of the spread of the virus; COVID 19, is social distancing. This compels all schools to ensure adherence to this protocol, and it is important this issue is brought to the attention of government.
3. Students in the lower levels, from Kindergarten (KG) to Primary four don't fully understand the implications of not following the protocols, and have been seen playing with each other, not wearing nose masks.
And you see, let us be frank to ourselves. Even we adults, many have had difficulties adhering to some of these protocols.
Look at our public transport system, we have already allowed to get crowded. People patronize this service without regard to the warnings of the new variant, even adults. How much of this can we not expect among our own children at this lower level of the educational ladder?
4. Thousands of students who hitherto attended private schools before the advent of Covid, which led to the closure of such schools, forcing some owners to convert them to other facilities and laying off teachers because the owners of these schools had no funds to keep them going, has led to thousands of students being stranded at home.
The students in some one hundred and twenty six (126) collapsed private schools are estimated at thirty seven thousand (37,000), manned by two thousand three hundred and ninety-four (2,394) staff. The above situation is also putting more pressure on the already overcrowded public schools as parents are struggling to get their wards into these schools.
Having laid these four critical concerns, I would like to ask the following questions of President Akufo-Addo and government as we all seek a safer environment for our young ones who have had to be at risk following the reopening of schools:
a) Why did the President assure us that all arrangements were in place to reopen schools in a manner that will not endanger the lives of students and pupils? The evidence suggests that the situation on the ground does not support that assurance. I am sure you have seen and heard media report instances of the unavailability or inadequacy of these basic protective gears promised by the President ahead of the reopening of schools;
b) Government, through the Ghana Education Service (GES), had close to ten months to reopen schools. Could additional spaces, even if temporarily, in the form of tents not have been created to reduce class sizes? Couldn't the shift system have been introduced to help decongest schools as a short term measure? Couldn't furniture have been procured to address the clustering of students on the few in the classrooms? Couldn't PPEs have been mobilised and distributed to schools at least a week before reopening?
c) What was so compelling that the President, Nana Akufo-Addo ought to have opened schools on the day he did when indeed, we did not have the full composition of protective gears distributed to schools? Should he not have ensured all schools had received the full compliments of PPEs before schools are opened, instead of now being compelled to act to reach all after they have already been opened?
I would want to urge all of you to join the calls in ensuring that the right things are done. We owe it a duty to protect the lives of our children, or we are to be faced with the devastations of this ravaging virus whose consequences could be more dire than we have ever anticipated.
Government is under immense pressure to effect a second lockdown. Ghana’s Coronavirus positivity rate keeps increasing. The Ghana Medical Association has warned of hospitals and Intensive Care Units (ICUs) being overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases.
As at January 11, the number of confirmed active cases – as reported from the website of the Ministry of Health – stands at 1,404. Figures from the Ministry of Health shows a spike in daily numbers since December – this has been linked to indiscipline, flouting of covid-19 protocols and the elections.
Already, the Ghana Medical Association has warned the public that “their health is in their own hands” and hospitals get overstretched to deal with the surge of the virus.
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