The Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) says it fully supports the reopening of schools across the country since it is in the best interest of children who have sat at home for the past 10 months.
It, therefore, charged members of the public to dismiss any information that sought to portray the contrary.
“We support things that are in the national interest and when there are things we need to raise concerns about, we would do that. Since schools reopened, we have been going round and giving all the support we need to give and so it is not true that we are against the reopening of schools,” the General Secretary of GNAT, Mr Thomas Musah, told the Daily Graphic.
He said children in the country must be given the opportunity to fulfill their God-given opportunities and talents as well as the acquisition of skills through which education was key.
According to him, the reopening of schools was to save the future of children who since March 16, 2020, had had to stay at home due to the COVID-19 which resulted in the closure of schools.
The government announced the closure of all schools in March 2020, and while final-year students were allowed to return to school later in the year to complete their courses, all others remained at home until President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo announced the reopening of schools in his 21st address to the nation on the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the first day of reopening last Monday, many pupils and students were visibly happy to have returned to school after almost one year at home and said they were determined to stay safe to ensure that the infection was curbed to avoid another closure.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), a day after the reopening, commended the government for taking the bold decision to reopen schools in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic that had seen some upsurge recently, saying that by doing that, 9.2 million children would be returning to the classrooms.
Mr Musah noted that GNAT had been in support of the reopening of schools in view of the negative implications of their continuous stay at home.
He said, for instance, keeping schools closed would lead to increase in teenage pregnancy, deepening class society and child labour, among other things.
“We indicated that if you look at the Ghana Living Standard (GLSS) seven, we have 31 million people in the country. Between zero to four years of that population there are about two million children. Now if you do an analysis of the same population taking into consideration a margin of error of three per cent, you have 651,000 children who are supposed to go to Kindergarten One. This is one of the reasons GNAT believes that the children must go to school,” he said.
He said if the children did not go to school at age four, by age five, they would go into child labour, “and as we speak now, we are told by the same GLSS Round Six that out of every five children you see, one is into child labour”.
The GNAT general secretary said one of the critical factors that demanded the reopening of schools was the situation in the Krachi District where 51 girls got pregnant between March and May 2020.
“The World Bank Human Capital Index Report has also predicted that 56 per cent of our human capital would go waste in the next 18 years. Before this prediction was made, the COVID-19 had not surfaced. So with the coming of COVID-19, it has compounded the situation and so the need to do something to prevent that,” he said.
Moreover, Mr Musah said another problem that required the reopening of schools was the creation of a class society in the country since whereas some children were learning online during the closure, some were on the Volta Lake and other places engaging in hazardous activities.
Mr Musah said as schools had reopened, the duty bearers must be held accountable to provide the personal protective equipment (PPE) in order to secure the learning environment for children, teachers and non-teaching staff.