THE RE-OPENING OF SCHOOLS AFTER TEN MONTHS BREAK DUE TO COVID -19.
Government through the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service (GES), is making frantic effort to prepare all schools across the country for their re-opening which is slated for Friday, January 15. It will include children in kindergarten to Junior High school. University students are already in school after they were directed by President Akufo-Addo to return to school on the 9th of this month. The President in March last year announced the closure of schools after Ghana confirmed two positive COVID-19 cases. However, in October last year, second-year students in Junior and Senior High schools were allowed back in school to complete the 2019/2020 academic year.
Government has announced a disinfection programme in all schools across the country as part of safety protocols to ensure that pupils and students do not contract COVID-19 in school. Aside from this, government is making preparations to supply all schools with PPE for distribution to teachers, students and the non-teaching staff. School authorities have been entreated to ensure that all health and safety protocols are strictly adhered to. Whilst informing the public on the re-opening of schools, the President said government has drawn lessons from the incident during the re-opening of some educational institutions last year so it is doing all it can to ensure the safety of children when they return to school.
Parents, on the other hand, cannot sit aloof leaving all the responsibility to government. They have been asked to talk to their children not to share their books, pens, papers, pencils, erasers, sharpeners and PPEs, such as nose masks with their friends. Parents are also to ensure that their children are provided all the necessary items before they go to school. Those who will be given the responsibility of picking children to and from schools should do so as soon as they close to prevent them from engaging in games that may facilitate the transmission of the virus.
Management of schools has a greater responsibility of ensuring that children are safe under their care. These days parents are asked to pay feeding fees for their children to eat whilst in school. Though some parents oppose it, it has gone beyond the discussion stage and most parents have accepted it as part of their responsibility. In this COVID-19 era, management of schools has to ensure that all their staff, teaching, and non-teaching, especially those who are responsible for cooking for the children, adhere to all health and safety protocols. If possible, this category of staff should be made to test for COVID-19 to assure parents that their children are safe in school. This is because it is trite knowledge that some people are asymptomatic and do not show signs of the disease. However, they can spread it and that may be dangerous for the children.
Spacing in classrooms should not be overlooked or ignored. Effective monitoring of the children in school will be required by the authorities to ensure their safety as well as the staff. School authorities should make it a point to seek medical care immediately for any child who complains of ill health to prevent problems. Parents should also be notified as soon as any child is sent to a medical facility for healthcare.
A lot of people including pupils and students depend greatly on food vendors. However, it is unclear whether food vendors have been included in the COVID-19 education process. This category of people should be given special training since they come into contact with a lot of customers. This will help protect themselves and others. It is most likely some pupils and students will patronize wayside food; therefore, measures should be put in place to ensure they do not contract the disease when trying to fill their stomachs. School authorities should ensure that their environments are always clean and the children, especially the young ones are neat. This will go a long way to avoid COVID-19 in schools.
Parents should not just dump their children in schools but they should take interest in their wellbeing by paying regular visits to the schools to interact with teachers and contribute to their safekeeping. With effective collaboration between government, school authorities and parents, pupils and students will be safe in school in this COVID-19 period. Children cannot continue to stay at home; therefore, all efforts must be made to ensure that the future generation gets access to education with or without COVID-19.
BY ERNEST OBENG-ANIM, A JOURNALIST.