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Coronavirus and reopening of schools: The case of reality

Wed, 6 Jan 2021 Source: Albert Amoah Dadson

We want to submit our opinion prior to the reopening of schools as announced by the president. We would also through our opinion suggest possible alternatives that could help handle the situation at hand carefully without further endangering the health of our school pupils and students.

Per the announcement by the president, it appears that schools are reopening fully thus from the KG – SHS 3 would be in the classroom completely at least by the close of January. Though the decision to reopening of schools was done behind closed doors, we believe we have a stake to add our voice consequently. We appreciate the effort by GNAT and that of NAGRAT, who might have had the opportunity to represent the teacher unions, and how far they were able to dialogue.

Notwithstanding, we have a different opinion than we believe can add up to what our sister unions have suggested earlier. ATAG believes that the wholesale reopening of schools might not be appropriate after all considering the situation of our KG and primary school pupils.

If there is anything to go by in terms of the reality of the coronavirus incidence, then it will be logically prudent to withhold the wholesale reopening of schools especially for the KG and the primary school pupils.

There are several challenges that may arise from allowing the KG and the primary pupils to be in school. First, these categories of pupils would not fully appreciate the protocols in place and more importantly might end up abusing these protocols. We ask questions like ‘would the government endeavour to provide nose masks and sanitiser for all these children?’

And even if the government is able to provide, the next problem is ‘how would the KG and the primary pupils cope with the use of masks and sanitizers?’ These children averaging 8-9years would find it extremely challenging washing their hands several times to stay safe and within the accepted protocols. Some of them might end up swallowing the liquid sanitizer after sanitization and even drinking from the veronica bucket.

It is obvious that the level of understanding associated with these categories of pupils is not coterminous with the systems in place.

What is particularly disturbing is that if the coronavirus infection rate, despite the drop, can post a threat, and then it is very important that authorities, as well as stakeholders, take a second look at the situation.

Secondly, putting all JHS and SHS students in school means that our classrooms are going to be overcrowded considering the limited infrastructure in place. Several schools in Ghana cannot cope with the numbers if additional classrooms become inevitable.

If the government still wants schools to continue doing twenty students per class, then there is going to be a lot of pressure on the existing system. Our boarding schools would be worst affected. And with the health situation at our hands, infectious rate could soar if there is any form of outbreak.

We in the All Teachers Alliance Ghana (ATAG) submit that until proper assessment is done on the infectious rate of the coronavirus and country’s situation, it will be illogical to open school for KG and primary school pupils wholly and now.

If the coronavirus still posts uncommon threat, then keeping the KG and the primary pupils at home for the meantime should not be a big concern to parents and all stakeholders. Perhaps, the president can wait for the vaccine to be made official in Ghana and then we can comfortably have the confidence of allowing our KG and primary school pupils to return fully to academic work.

Again, the JHS and SHS students can continue to run a shift system in order to keep smaller numbers in the classrooms. The government should also ensure that students are well tested before admission into schools to ascertain their status. They can also allocate clinics and hospitals to cluster of schools for regular monitoring and checkups.

We can do this gradually until the vaccine becomes administrable where we can have confidence in larger class size going forward. These are humble submissions and we plead with the government and our sister unions to give these our opinions a careful thought prior to reopening of schools.

We also know that the Government is concerned about the shutdown of our private schools and wants to revamp their activities but he should also consider balancing economics with health to avert possible turndowns. We cannot downplay the global coronavirus incidence easily since this might trigger a near-fatal wave if care is not taking.

Columnist: Albert Amoah Dadson