The National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) has also thrown its weight behind calls for the government to reopen schools for only final year students amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.
President Akufo-Addo on March 15, 2020, directed the closure of schools in the country to curb the spread of the virus has now been a matter of discussion with various groups left divided over their support or otherwise for students to return back to school.
The government is however expected to finalize consultations on the easing of COVID-19 restrictions with various stakeholders by the end of this week.
NUGS in a press release urged the government to reopen schools for only the final years to enable them to take their final examinations with strict adherence to all the safety protocols enumerated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Ghana Health Service (GHS).
“All final year students of Junior High Schools, Senior High Schools and Tertiary should be allowed to return to the classroom but with strict adherence to the health protocols like social distancing, limited contact hours, few pupil-to-teacher ratios, decongestion of classes among others. This will afford them the opportunity to prepare and to take their transition exams in a usual physical session,” it said.
Prof. Adei advises against the wholesale reopening of schools
A renowned Ghanaian educationist, Prof. Stephen Adei, had earlier suggested the reopening of schools for only final year students as the debate on whether or not schools in Ghana should be reopened amidst the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus rages on.
“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.”
He continued to argue that: “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.” he said.
Debate on reopening of schools
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, National Association of Graduate Teachers, Tertiary Education Workers’ Union and Coalition of Concerned Teachers have registered their opposition to the intended reopening.
The Parents Teacher Association and School Management Committees had also 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
Meanwhile, the Minister for Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah has debunked claims that the government intends to reopen schools soon regardless of the surge in COVID-19 cases in the country.
According to him, a number of stakeholder consultations are being held in that regard. He wants 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?” Oppong Nkrumah said.