Ghanaian educationist Anis Haffar has said: “If I were president, I would not open the schools at this time”.
His comment is coming at a time that the government is planning on easing restrictions on public gathering.
During the Eid celebrations over the weekend, President Akufo-Addo said stakeholder consultations are taking place on the way forward toward the easing of COVID-19 restrictions so that the social and economic lives of Ghanaians “can go back to normal”.
“I expect these consultations to conclude this week”, he said at a virtual national Eid celebration on Sunday, 24 May 2020, adding: “So that I can announce to Ghanaians a clear roadmap for easing the restrictions”.
“We have to find a way back, but in safety, for we cannot be under these restrictions forever”, the President said.
The said at the Eid ceremony that his confidence in easing the restrictions is “fortified” by three considerations: “Firstly, sad though any premature death is, the hard fact is that the rate of deaths in Ghana amongst confirmed cases is very low – one per one million, i.e. 0.0001%, one of the lowest in Africa, and, indeed, in the world, this, despite the very high number of tests we are carrying out”.
“This has been so since the very beginning of the outbreak over two (2) months ago. The number of positive cases stands at six thousand, six hundred and eighty-three (6,683), out of one hundred and ninety-four thousand, seven hundred and sixty-three (194,763) tests conducted, with one thousand, nine hundred and ninety-eight (1,998) recoveries. This means that our positivity rate, that is the ratio of confirmed cases to the total number of tests conducted, is 3.43%, which, again, is one of the lowest in Africa, and in the world.
“Furthermore, virtually all the thirty-two (32) corona-related deaths, that have so far been recorded, were of persons with, what the doctors call, comorbidity, i.e. with other underlying causes and diseases. Most of them died within twenty-four (24) hours of admission to hospital. May their souls rest in peace. It appears that, by the grace of God, Ghanaians are not dying of this virus in the numbers that were originally anticipated and feared”, he observed.
Secondly, the president noted, the “numbers of severe virus cases that have been hospitalised have been persistently low since the outbreak”, adding: “The fear that our hospitals would be overburdened, and, indeed, overwhelmed has, so far, again by the grace of God, not materialised. As we speak, there are sixteen (16) severe cases in six (6) hospitals across the country, none of them on a ventilator. We pray for their speedy recovery”.
Thirdly, he announced: “We now have a more robust mechanism for enforcing our central strategy of defeating the virus – the application of the 3Ts, tracing, testing and treating. The tracing teams are more experienced and more efficient; testing capabilities are no longer concentrated in Accra and Kumasi, but spread more evenly across the country in Ho, Tamale, Navrongo, Takoradi and Cape Coast; treating capacity has been considerably enhanced with isolation facilities better distributed across the nation”.
Already, some private school groups are mounting pressure on the government to reopen schools by June.
In a proposal to the Ghana Education Service, the Ghana National Association of Private Schools (GNAPS) and the Conference of Heads of Private Secondary Schools (CHOPSS) are jointly of the view that safety mechanisms ought to be rolled out rapidly to pave the way for, at least, final-year students in all senior high schools to resume school.
However, delivering a lecture at a virtual forum organised by the Rotary Club of Accra Airport District on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education, Mr Haffar indicated that the safety of schoolchildren should be paramount in determining whether or not schools should reopen.
“As a parent, I'll be very uncomfortable tossing my kid up into the jungle – a jungle meaning where there are a whole bunch of people who are elbowing each other and that sort of thing – because, now, if we want to begin to look at even social-distancing, if we don't prepare for those things, why do we want to put kids in apprehension of their safety?”
“The issue is: ‘How safe are you?’ That is the question and the second one is: ‘Have we created a conducive environment in which health is number one prerogative?’ As the president said, we can solve our economic problems, but when the person is dead, we cannot bring them back to life. What I'm saying is, if I were president, I would not open the schools at this time,” Mr Haffar stated.
The educationist also called for enhanced COVID-19 tests between now and September, which, he said, will then inform the government on the next step to follow.