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UNICEF lauds govt for reopening schools

BY: Emmanuel Bonney
• Madam Ramatu Gariba (2nd left), Municipal Director of Education, Ayawaso East, explaining a point to Mr Anthony Boateng (right), Madam Anne-Claire Dufay (2nd right), Mr Benjamin K. Gyasi (3rd right), Chief Director, Ministry of Education, and Ms Catherine Appiah-Pinkrah (left), Director, Pre-Tertiary Education, Ministry of Education, during the visit to the Nima 1 Basic School. Picture: EDNA SALVO-KOTEY

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has commended the government for taking a bold decision to reopen schools after 10 months of closure.

The closure was part of measures by the government to curb and control the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the country.

 UNICEF is also pleased with the steps so far taken by the government to contain the spread of the disease.

The Country Director of UNICEF, Ms Annie-Claire Dufay, who gave the commendation, said it was worrying that many children in the country who were already disadvantaged had their situation compounded due to the long stay at home.

"Globally, many children have been affected by the closure of schools because of the prevalence of the virus. In Ghana, 9.2 million children have been missing out on education. So the reopening means that 9.2 million children are going back to school to study again.

"In all, we want to congratulate the government on the effort it is making in these challenging times to get children back to the classroom," she added.

Event

Ms Dufay gave the commendation during a tour of schools with some government officials in Accra yesterday as part of activities to mark ‘My first day in school’.

The team included a Deputy Director-General of the Ghana Education Service (GES), Mr Anthony Boateng, and the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Patrick Kumah-Aboagye.

They toured some basic schools, including those in the Ayawaso West municipality, to find out the attendance rate and how the pupils were observing the COVID-19 safety protocols.

The team also donated some educational materials and personal protective equipment (PPE) to the Nima Cluster of Schools, the Maamobi Prisons Basic School and the Bethany Methodist School.

Fulfilment of dreams

Ms Dufay said the resumption of schoolwork meant children could dream again and work hard towards attaining those dreams.

"I am wearing a face mask today with the inscription, ‘Dream’, and it is with a purpose because children have dreams and we want them to go back to school, so that they can interact with their peers and teachers to help them realise those dreams,” she added.

She further said although COVID-19 cases had been increasing, children could no longer stay out, having already spent 10 months at home.

"This is a challenging decision to make, but the government had the courage to prioritise education and we support it," she said.

Ms Dufay said UNICEF had provided water and sanitation facilities for many schools and expressed appreciation to donor partners, such as the World Bank and the governments of Japan, Canada and The Netherlands for their contributions.

She said the organisation had been engaging the Ministry of Education and the GES on a distance learning programme and a review of school curriculum in Ghana.

Contribution

Mr Boateng said guidelines on the reopening of schools developed by the GES and the GHS had been sent to heads of schools to guide teachers on their implementation.

He said the GES was satisfied with the activities on the first day in school, but said the major challenge was the inability of some schools to receive their share of PPE.

He said efforts were being made to supply those schools with the equipment and appealed to parents to also support their kids in school.

For his part, Dr Kumah-Aboagye said compliance with the COVID-19 protocols, such as the wearing of face masks, was a shared responsibility and expressed the hope that parents and school authorities would ensure that pupils and students complied.

He also said the GHS had begun screening children to check for illnesses that could hamper their studies in school.

"Starting today, we will screen the children to ensure that their nutritional status is appropriate and also that they do not have conditions that will affect their ability to study," he added.