The Minority in Parliament has called for the immediate closure of both Senior and Junior High Schools (S/JHSs) across the country as a means of ending the spread of COVID-19 among students, teaching and non-teaching staff.
It said the conditions on the various campuses of both senior high schools and junior high schools with regard to infections of the COVID-19 did not augur well for sound teaching and learning, let alone writing of the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) and the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE).
“What happened at the Accra Girls SHS and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) SHS are clear examples of fear and panic among students, and how do we expect students to focus on studying and writing exams” it asked.
Addressing the press on the recorded cases of the COVID-19 in SHSs across the country, the Deputy Ranking Member of Parliament’s Committee on Education, Dr Clement Apaak, said “Sick students, and God forbid, dead students, cannot write exams. We can postpone the exams but we cannot postpone the safety of our future leaders”.
Dr Apaak who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Builsa South said prior to the re-opening of SHSs and JHSs, various stakeholders, including teacher unions, had called for safety measures to be put in place before the schools were reopened in order to prevent the COVID-19 from the campuses.
However, he said, contrary to the advice given to the government many schools only received their personal protection equipment (PPE) just this week.
“In some schools fumigation took place the day that students reported. The government also refused to heed the advice to have both the teaching and non-teaching staff and the students tested before they are allowed on campus,” he said.
Ban on access
Dr Apaak said it was because of the restrictions that the Ministry of Education through the Ghana Education Service had placed ban on parents not to have access to their children that the media and the public, including parents, were not fully apprised of the outbreak of the pandemic on the campuses of SHSs in the country.
“In other schools too, students are denied use of mobile phones so they are not able to communicate what is happening on their campuses to their parents. Meanwhile visits have also been banned,” he said.
Fear and panic
More worryingly, he said, at the time the government decided to re-open the schools the case count of the pandemic in the country had reached 12,000 and only to soar to about 20,000 a few days ago.
He said many stakeholders, including parents, teacher unions and the Minority, believed that the motive for which schools were re-opened could not be achieved and advised the government accordingly.
“First of all, the students are not in a good frame of mind. They are panicking and are terrified while parents are anxious and teachers are afraid.
“So, how can students study and pass their exams when they are in a panic mode and cannot get even the basics that will reassure them of their safety,” he said.
It is for these reasons, Dr Apaak said, that like other countries such, as Israel and Germany where schools re-opened but had been closed again that we must also close our schools now.
“We must not risk the lives of our students, once some students have tested positive and we now know that the disease is present on our school campuses,” he added.
He said if Cabinet could be suspended for two weeks due to the suspicion that some “high government officials” have been infected with the COVID-19, so also must schools be closed.
“Do students not also deserve the same attention that government officials are getting”?, he asked, and recalled how many parents were presently demanding that their children came home as a result of the government’s failure to ensure their protection.
“Other West African countries and nations across the world have postponed the writing of final examinations so why must Ghana insist that its final year students in JHS and SHS write examinations under such terrifying circumstances?” he asked.