Professor Stephen Adei - Ghanaian educationist
A renowned Ghanaian educationist, Professor Stephen Adei has suggested that the reopening of schools should rather be focused on final year students as the debate on whether schools should reopen amidst the outbreak of the coronavirus rages on.
In his contribution to the matter that has become of great concern, he advised the government not to rush and reopen schools for all levels since such a move will be counter-productive to the country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
President Akufo-Addo on March 15, 2020, directed the closure of schools ranging from the basic education to tertiary institutions as means of preventing the spread of the virus. But the decision has now become a matter of discussion with various groups left divided over their support or otherwise for students to return to school.
However, speaking in an interview, Professor Adei suggested that prioritizing the sizeable final year class other than having the entire student population in session is rather a situation much more manageable to reduce the risk of infection among students.
“I think that we should not rush to reopen for all students to go back at the same time because we have not learned how to manage the crowd at this stage. However, I think the institutions can reopen as soon as possible by the end of this month even for the final year students. In the universities, you will be dealing with a quarter of the population who are adults and can manage it.”
As he continued with his submission, he said:
“when it comes to the secondary school level, they had eight weeks left before they went home [you can also take only the final years] but even if you think that the final years are too many, you can double track them for one batch to come and do eight weeks and the others come later. But the most important thing is that you want to have the numbers manageable for distancing and teaching. So I think that we should be concerned with the examination candidates now. We must be careful in breaking in; we must deal with the final year students’ numbers first such that we can observe the protocols. There are options but we must be pragmatic.”
However, Professor Adei was quick in his steps to add that a special arrangement could be made for final year Junior High School (JHS) students emphasizing that:
“for the JHS, they are not that as significant. Now we basically have basic education school children in wholesale to the secondary level so theirs is not that difficult because we can do a normal common entrance on only two subjects so that those who are too weak can continue. We have done it before and it’s simple.”
While teachers from the public schools are asking the government to abort any possible plans of reopening schools, the Ghana National Council of Private Schools (GNACOPS) has however argued otherwise.
Four Teacher unions; Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), Tertiary Education Workers’ Union (TEWU) and Coalition of Concerned Teachers (CCT) have registered their opposition to the intended reopening of schools. Additionally, the Parents Teacher Association (PTA) and School Management Committees had advised the government against the reopening of schools because it will put the lives of teachers and students in danger.
Schools won’t reopen now, consultations ongoing – Oppong Nkrumah
As the discussion goes on, the Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah has debunked claims that the government’s intention to reopen schools soon regardless of the surge in COVID-19 cases in the country.
According to him, several stakeholder consultations are being held in that regard. Adding that, stakeholder groups and parents to channel their energies finding possible ways of resolving the COVID-19 challenges.
“We noticed that there are a lot of stakeholder groups and parents and unions that appear apprehensive since those reports [schools reopening soon] came out. It is okay to be apprehensive, Indeed if we were not apprehensive then we would not be sensitive to challenges of the times. It is okay to have worries, it is okay to wonder how this will be done but we must channel those apprehensions and those worries towards answering the question; what does it take? what should be the indication of a good time? What will be the best way to protect teachers, non-teachers, students if we are to open-up at some point?” Mr. Oppong Nkrumah said.