Lower primary schools in the Ghana resumed for the second term of the 2020/2021 academic year on Tuesday, 4th May 2021. COVID-19 had caused global closure of schools at all levels. n Ghana, pupils have returned to commence the second term of the 2021-2022 academic year with high expectations.
“Deciding to close, partially close or reopen schools should be guided by a risk-based approach, to maximize the educational, well-being and health benefit for students, teachers, staff, and the wider community, and help prevent a new outbreak of COVID-19 in the community”, the World Health Organization said in a statement.
It further cautioned States to ensure the resumption of schools is accompanied with careful precautions to protect children.
www.zamireports.com visited the Bawjiase D/A Basic B School in the Central region to observe how school management are implementing the recommended safety protocols; wearing of nose masks, washing of hands with soap under running water, robbing of hand with alcoholic based hand sanitizers, and social distancing as adopted by the Ghana Health Service to protect lives.
One would expect a lot of lapses from a public basic school which is miles away from the country’s capital city with regards to the COVID-19 safety protocols as witnessed in many schools nationwide, but that was far from being the case on the arrival of Collins Kwabena Nsiah at the Bawjiase D/A Basic B School.
The well tidied environment with hand washing stations and pupils and teachers in face masks were a delight to behold. It was clear from the body language of both teachers and pupils that they were cognizant of the pandemic and its associated health risk and safety protocols.
At 9:00 hours gmt, teaching and learning commenced with half packed classrooms across all six classes. Clearly, pupils and teachers were practising social distancing as directed by the World Health Organization, but there came in the worrying moment when it was time for English lesson in the Basic Five where I had pitched camp.
Like an army of ants devouring a piece of fish bone, the hitherto socially distanced pupils suddenly gathered together a desk to have a glimpse of perhaps the only treasure, a basic five text book. The situation cut across the entire school.
Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there should be a considerable distance amongst students in school regardless of the intensity of community transmission. They said, “In elementary schools, CDC recommends all students remain at least 3 feet apart in classrooms where mask use is universal — regardless of whether community transmission is low, moderate, substantial, or high.”
Mrs. Fiona Annah Mensah said there is little she can do though she hopes her pupils could maintain the distant as directed by health experts during lessons.
“We don’t have text books at all. We the teachers buy the books on the markets ourselves. Sometimes I ask the teachers to buy from their pockets and sometimes I buy for them”, Mrs. Fiona said.
On the premises are two schools. The Bawjiase D/A Basic A School and Bawjiase D/A Basic B. Bawjiase D/A Basic B has a population of five hundred and forty-seven pupils but three hundred and twenty out of that number had reported to school during the third day of resumption.
There were four hand washing stations strategically positioned within the premises. Within the two hours of my visit, pupils sparingly approached the hand washing station to wash their hands as required even when they visited the janitors.
While in classrooms, the pupils wore their nose masks properly but sooner had the bell been rang for break; than the pupils removed the masks into their pockets and geared into various extra curricular activities without supervision.
Again, the World Health Organization prescribed fabrics face masks for children for optimum protection when distancing is not possible.
“Fabric masks are recommended to prevent onward transmission in the general population in public areas, particularly where distancing is not possible, and in areas of community transmission. This could include the school grounds in some situations.”
Harriet Kumah, the senior prefect of the Bawjiase D/A Basic A School said it is inconveniencing to wear the face mask.
“It is difficult to wear the nose mask and speak.”
Mrs. Fiona Annah Mensah revealed it is a daunting task getting the pupils to remain in mask while in school.
“When they see me wearing mine and coming to their classrooms, they quickly put theirs on”, Mrs. Mensah said.
She confirmed adequate personal protective equipment and logistics including face masks, hand sanitizers, liquid soap, tissue papers and thermometer guns were presented to the school by Government through the education directorate in the Central region during the reopening of the first term but the opposite is the case in the second term.
“When we reopened for the second term, we have educated the children on COVID-19 and the protocol, we were provided with Veronica bucket by the government, that was last term, we were also given some tissues, nose mask, thermometer gun, liquid soap, each child had one, but this second term, we have been provided with only liquid soap but we have some left-over tissues from last term, so we can manage for some time.”
“We have four School Health Education Programme Coordinators (SHEP) in the school, 2 for the primary and 2 for the Junior High School, they go for training and comeback to share with the remaining of the teachers”, Mrs. Fiona said.
SHEP is a Ghana Education Service (GES) initiative to ensure the provision of comprehensive health and nutrition education and related support services in schools to equip pupils with basic life skills for healthy living, which will lead to improvements in child survival and educational outcomes, including school enrolment, retention and academic performance.
As at November 2020, two thousand one hundred and eighty children in Ghana had contracted COVID-19 according to a report by Child Rights International (CRI). One thousand, one hundred and sixty one girls and one thousand and nineteen boys were infected.
One thousand, two hundred and eighty four were aged fourteen, or under while eight hundred and ninety six were between the ages of fifteen and seventeen. There were four deaths, made up of three girls and one boy, all in the under fourteen age bracket according to the report.
Some three hundred and forty five (345) schools have reported cases among pupils and students. The cumulative cases stood at 2,052, with thirteen (13) active cases as of 14th April and 99. 4 per cent recoveries. The Volta region had recorded the highest cases with 489 cases while the Oti region hasdthe highest active cases of nine at the time.
By: Collins Kwabena Nsiah|www.zamireports.com|Central Region.
This report is supported by Journalists for Human Rights under the Mobilizing Media to Fighting COVID-19 project.