The Member of Parliament (MP) for the North Tongu constituency, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa has highlighted the need for the country to work towards the achievement of equal access to education across the country.
The former Education Minister told Eugene Bawelle on the maiden edition of Class91.3FM’s weekend current affairs show, ‘The Watchdog’ on Saturday, 16 January 2021 that the education sector must be designed to cater for both the rural and urban parts of the country at all educational levels especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to him, COVID “exposed the disparities” between schools in the rural and urban areas.
“Are we sure schools closed down? COVID only exposed the disparities; the structural disparities, the gap between rich schools and poor schools.
“Let's be sincere. The middle class, upper-class schools did not really close down they only switched to the virtual mode and so they had teachers reporting or those who were even more privileged, they had a setup that allowed teachers to teach from home and they could reach out to their students who were also home. So parents had to just invest more in data this time, to provide gadgets and so the more affluent families have been able to cope. And you have a situation where rural Ghana if you like, has been really marginalised and left out whereas in more urban Ghana, they don’t really feel the impact in terms of the loss on curriculum and continuing with what the academic calendar should be over the last period,” he added.
In view of this, Mr. Ablakwa said: “…we must work aggressively, especially those of us in leadership to bridge the gap because the more well-to-do institutions at all levels right from primary all the way to junior high, senior high and tertiary institutions. The whole strata."
Citing how the gap between the urban and rural areas in terms of access to education can be bridged, he indicated that when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, he took steps in his constituency, which is mainly rural, to roll out interventions.
“…we were able to reach out to NGOs and embassies and others and we got a lot of educational materials we distributed house to house just to try and bridge the gap”.
Mr Ablakwa stressed the need to embrace “the new normal” that has affected Ghana’s educational sector and “be more aggressive in implementing policies that allow us to catch up”.
He also reiterated the importance of investing in the dynamics caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He noted therefore that during his time as Education Minister under the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government, “We foresaw that there was the need to invest more in technology, invest more in science labs. So if you look at the architecture of the community day schools, we had many four science labs".
Schools were reopened across the country on Friday, 15 January 2021 from Kindergarten to Senior High School while tertiary institutions were reopened on Saturday, 9 January 2021 after schools were closed down in March 2020 following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic as announced in President Akufo-Addo’s 21st update on measures being taken by his government to curb the spread of the virus on Sunday, 10 January 2021.
Delivering his 22nd update on measures being taken by his government to curb the spread of the virus on Sunday, 17 January 2021, President Akufo-Addo told teachers and students to adhere to the COVID-19 safety protocols in order to avoid the closure of schools again.
“Wear your mask at all times. Wash and sanitise your hands regularly. Protect yourself. Protect each other. Protect your teachers. Protect your parents.
“But, please do not give me a reason to close down schools again. I pledge to do my best to keep your education going,” President Akufo-Addo stated in his address.