By Issifu Seidu Kudus Gbeadese
The consequences of the curveball President Nana Akufo-Addo threw at Ghanaians on that 9th of April 2020 by lifting the three weeks partial lockdown are still fresh in our archives. So, anytime there is a hint of any decision which won’t be backed by science and valid data, we are quick to start pointing to the future consequences such decisions will have on the lives of the people of Ghana.
The Ghana Education Service and for that matter the Government of Ghana is set to act against all professional advices from the certified Teacher Unions in Ghana, the National Council of Parent-Teacher Association, the Africa Education Watch and other key stakeholders in the education sub-sector, to reopen schools as the Ministry of Information dropped hints on such a decision. The Ministry of Information added that government will ensure that schools and pupils adhere to the existing protocols as it prepares to reopen schools.
It is recalled that the Director General of Ghana Education Service, Prof Opoku Amankwa, requested for inputs from the stakeholders in the education sector to inform its decision to reopen schools in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic.
In its letter dated 18th May, 2020, and signed by the Executive Director, the Africa Education Watch has warned the Government of Ghana not to risk the lives of innocent children and teachers by reopening the schools as planned. Among the four concerns raised by the Africa Education Watch is the caution that any such decision must be based on science and backed by data generated by experts, and this should be done after a consensus reached by all stakeholders.
The African Education Watch bemoaned the poor hygienic conditions in our school coupled with poor infrastructure which will obviously cause congestion in times when the government is enforcing other protocols including social distancing. The civil society organization finally warned that any attempt to reopen schools without consensus from all stakeholders including PTA, SMC, will suffer patronage since parents will fear to expose their children in a school environment which cannot be properly controlled in these times.
The National Council of Parent-Teacher Association (NCPTA) equally frowns on government’s resolve to reopen school against experts cautions. The NCPTA describes any such decision as premature and that there is no sufficient data from the Ghana Health Service and the Ghana Medical Association to back a decision to reopen schools. Parents and school managements also foresee a huge risk as compliance on protocols amongst children especially wearing of nose masks for a long period of time and social distancing cannot be guaranteed.
In furtherance, the NCPTAs in its press release dated 20th May, 2020, admonished government to still monitor the situation up to August or September to ascertain a downward trend of infection before considering the reopening of schools. The NCPTAs recollects events of the Tema Factory infection which happened as a result of concentration of people at a closed place for a long period of time. This the NCPTA says should be a warning to the government.
In the midst of all these resistance by the key stakeholders including PTAs, SMCs and other civil society organizations, the government of Nana Akufo-Addo is bent on acting against all odds. To make matters worse, the Ghana Education Service which is supposed to work and act in the interest of Ghanaians especially innocent school children, has rather allowed itself to be polarized and compromised by this desperate NPP government. This is why the Ghana Education Service is only applying what the NPP government puts forward for implementation and not based its decision on valid data, science and common sense.
We had a similar case when the President lifted the three weeks partial lockdown without any consensus from experts even at a time the cases of infection assumed a horizontal trend and community infections kept growing in larger proportions. Prof Agyeman Badu Akosa, Former Director General of GHS described the decision to lift the lockdown as reckless and one not backed by data. He was at the time advocating for an extension of the lockdown and even extended to other parts of the country.
The cases of infection has not plateaued and the community spread in almost all the regions is getting alarming. This is the time we require an agile government which can assume a strictly responsive position with the ability to timely review policy instruments and options to meet the exigencies of the time.
We cannot sit back and allow this polarized Ghana Education Service to sacrifice the lives of innocent school children, teachers and parents for President Nana Addo’s appetite to remain in power at all cost. To the President and his allies, lives of school children don’t matter once their interest gets served. Ghanaians must resist any daring attempt of the GES and government to reopen schools.
25th May, 2020