A virtual two-day stakeholder conference to brainstorm on a policy brief strategy on the re-opening of early childhood educational centres amidst COVID-19 “in the Ghanaian context” is underway.The conference is under the auspices of Learning and Childhood Development (CLCD), Ghana Education Service (GES), Ghana Health Service (GHS), UNICEF, Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP), National Council for Private Early Childhood Growth and Development (NC-PECGD), Special Mothers’ Association, Lively Minds, Innovation for Poverty Action, all Non-Profit Organisations as well as Department of Social Welfare.
It is dubbed, “Continuous learning and re-opening of early childhood centres and care programmes: what will it take Ghana?”
Madam Cynthia Mamle Morrison, the Minister for MoGCSP, said the conference, which is a platform on how to support child education development during COVID-19 pandemic, would also help in addressing the disparity in distance learning.
She said children in the rural areas were the most affected when it came to challenges in distance learning through the internet and must be addressed.
The Minister urged the participants to come out with the best of policy to guide management in planning the re-opening of schools.
Madam Anne-Claire Dufay, Country Representative of UNICEF-Ghana, said the topic was close to the heart of her organisation and commended government for its measures in containing the spread of the pandemic.
She said the virus had affected 1.6 billion learners globally in terms of the digital divide, adding that, there was the need to ensure there was equity, accessibility and innovative solutions in teaching and learning.
Madam Dufay said there should be innovative approach for learners to start school by five and start work life by 18 years, saying that, that could not be achieved without the support of parents, who needed to be trained to teach the children numeracy and literacy, especially on how to avoid contracting COVID-19 and hygiene before they returned to school, as not all had the capacity to do so.
Mrs Patty Assan, Director of Basic Schools-GES, who spoke for the Deputy Director General for GES, said the engagement would take stock of the impact of the disease on children between zero and eight years, build consensus on how they would be prepared towards school re-opening.
Since schools were closed in March, following Ghana’s first records of COVID-19, 9.2 million Basic School learners, half a million tertiary students, 350 teachers, 1,500 teacher educators, over 7,000 special school learners had been affected.
She said the Ministry of Education and GES had put-up policy reforms- directives to be observed by both teachers and pupils, financing requirement, safety operations – procurement of COVID-19 items, distance learning in core subjects, welfare and protection of students and reaching out to the most vulnerable, but not much for children.
Dr Fred Kwame Sakyi, Director of Centre for CLCD, said the organisation existed to save new lives, children with disabilities, among others through relief programmes, education, advocacy and other interventions.
According to a research conducted by CLCD, Dr Sakyi said children that did not attend early childhood programmes did not reach educational milestone.
Dr Kofi Issah of the Ghana Health Service said the stakeholders’ guideline would include providing good environment to learn, good nutrition, education, how to manage stress as well as give the children the opportunity to play and learn at the same time without contracting the disease.
He said it was important early childhood education was prioritized to realize children’s full potential in the “new normal” period as they also observed the safety protocols.