The Director-General of the Ghana Education Service (GES), Prof. Kwasi Opoku-Amankwa, has said it will be disastrous for the government to close down senior high schools (SHSs) and send students back home for fear that they will contract the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Speaking at a press briefing organised by the Ministry of Information to provide an update on the country’s COVID-19 case management situation in Accra yesterday, Prof. Opoku-Amankwa said closing down schools presently was not the right option for the government to consider.
There have been calls by some parents and political parties for the government to shut down schools in the face of the spread of the virus in schools.
Answering a question on the danger of keeping students in school, the GES boss said: “We believe that the best option is to keep them [students] in school because if we decide to let them go into the bigger society, then we rather have to close down the entire country because if you have a thousand students going into different homes and they are infected, we are not sure of what is going to happen to the larger community."
"We are talking about 550,000 students; that is, the Gold Track students plus SHS final-year students, so if we decide to let them all go, I think we will be causing a big disaster to ourselves," he added.
He explained that the government had put in place measures, including the deployment of the needed resources and logistics, including personal protective equipment (PPE), such as nose masks and hand sanitiser, to ensure the safety of students in the various institutions.
He said most of the students who had been infected by the virus and were currently in isolation were asymptomatic and, therefore, able to engage in studies.
“Originally, the final-year SHS students had two weeks to start their WASSCE, but the President, in his wisdom, said because they had been home for a long time, they should be given more time for revision,” he said.
Prof. Opoku-Amankwa assured parents that students who were unable to write the examination due to poor health would be given the opportunity to register for the same examination at another period at a cost to the government.
“If, for any reason at all, the child is writing the exams and is ill, what the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) does is that it has something called the clemency rule that will be used, so that if you have written English One and cannot write the second paper, it will use the results of the first paper and other factors to award you marks for the second paper,” he explained.
He added that because of all those arrangements, it was not prudent to close down schools under the current circumstances.
The country’s positive COVID-19 cases as of yesterday stood at 25,252, according to the Director of Public Health at the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Badu Sarkodie.
Although the number of positive cases had increased, Dr Sarkodie said the number of active cases had significantly reduced over the last few days.
He said there were 3,716 active cases, while figures for recovered and discharged people had risen to 21,391, with 139 deaths.
The new cases were confirmed from 26 districts in six regions.
The Minister of Information, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, who answered a question on the government’s strategy to ensure that the rate of infections among the public was reduced, said although the government was determined to protect citizens from getting infected by the virus, the citizens must also take steps to protect themselves.
He said all the safety protocols that had been adopted by the government could not translate into preventing the spread of the virus if citizens failed to comply and act accordingly.
Parents storm Accra Girls’
Meanwhile, for the second time in two weeks, some frustrated parents went to the Accra Girls’ SHS) yesterday, demanding that the school authorities should allow them to send their children home, reports Jennifer Kwasin
It followed a joint statement by the GHS and the GES late Monday that 55 people in the school had tested positive for the COVID-19.
The statement said: "Accra Girls’ SHS has recorded most cases from the first report to date. As of 13th July, 2020, a total of 314 people (students and staff) from the school had been tested. Out of these, 55 have been confirmed positive for COVID-19, while 259 people tested negative."
It added that all the infected people had been segregated from other students, while their contacts had been identified and tested.
When the Daily Graphic visited the school yesterday morning, a number of parents would not take anything except demand their children.
Dissatisfied with unfolding events, the parents said if the authorities had tested the students and some had come out negative, they should release them, so that their parents send them home to prevent further spread of the virus among the students..
Contrary to what the GES and the GHS were saying, the parents were of the view that the students were not safe because the school had become a hot spot for the virus and unsafe for living.
Parents reiterated the fact that the school authorities were not communicating with them (parents).
Ms Millicent Manu, a parent, said: “We are told by our children that classroom work is no longer in active session, so what are the children still doing in school when the school is no longer safe for them, health wise?”
“If we continue keeping them in school, the spread will increase and the unfortunate may happen to our children,” she added.