Neogenics Education Group, an educational consultancy, has urged government to nullify the current academic year and start afresh in September following the Coronavirus outbreak in the country.
According to the group, students should be made to repeat their current year or classes.
Ghana on Monday, March 16, 2020, closed all schools, universities and suspended public events to stop the spread of coronavirus in the country.
President Nana Akufo-Addo announced in an address to the nation that the authorities were shutting schools and universities “until further notice”.
There have been calls by the Ghana National Council of Private Schools (GNACOPS) for government to open the schools now if it is safe; a request opposed by various teacher unions in the country.
But according to the educational consultancy group, it is not prudent for government to reopen schools now, but rather it should consider restarting the academic year in September 2020.
“On that note, Noegenics Education Group will want to advocate the best-fit alternative as the way forward; The current 2019/2020 academic year should be annulled and all children made to have a fresh start in September by repeating their current year/Class.”
Students in basic, Junior and Senior high schools were in their second term of the academic year while Tertiary institutions were in their second semesters before the COVID induced closure of schools set in.
In a press release signed by Grant Bulmuo, Lead Consultant of the group, their call is backed by research that “a child’s absence from school experience has a significant impact on their future successes and life chances.”
“Research shows that 8 days of absence from school reduces a child’s best chance of success by 4%, 19 days by 10%, 29 days by 15%, 38 days by 20% and 48 days by 25%. Children in Ghana by the end of May 2020 would have been absent from active learning for almost 50 school days. Your judgement is a good as ours! Majority of our children may hardly remember any of the learning they experienced in school from September 2019.”
The group further suggested that government should “engage all teachers in both Private and Public schools in a mass National ICT education drive by taking advantage of the increased national interest in ICT to equip parents, teachers and children across the country. This will offer everyone with the minimum ICT skills needed for the education system of Ghana to thrive and leapfrog to Global standards.”
The Neogenics Education Group further presented 10 questions which it thinks government should answer before taking any step towards reopening schools.
“Elsewhere the re-opening of schools has rather led to unexpected outcomes. In France, about 70 COVID-19 cases have been linked to schools after one-third of children recently went back to school. In the case of Ghana, even though it can be justifiably claimed that due to low national COVID-19 cases as compared to other countries, it may not necessarily imply that children will not be put at risk when schools are re-opened,” the statement added.
To reopen schools or not to
The Ghana National Council of Private Schools GNACOPS says the schools should be opened if government believes it’s safe regardless of the rise in COVID-19 cases in the country.
The position of private schools has been challenged by four teacher unions who are kicking against plans to reopen schools any time soon.
The four are the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), Tertiary Education Workers Union (TEWU), and Coalition of Concerned Teachers (CCT).
In a joint statement, they indicated that items for the observation of the prescribed protocols which includes face masks and alcohol-based sanitizers are not available in the various schools hence their apprehension.
According to the Teacher Unions, the Ghana Education Service in a circular dated 13th May 2020 had requested for “proposals for the reopening of schools” hence their statement urging government not to consider such decision now.
But Executive Director of GNACOPS, Enoch Kwasi Gyetuah who insisted that schools must be reopened, speaking to Citi News was of the view that the government will not take any decision that will jeopardize the health of students.
“If the government comes out and tells us that conditions have changed and communities are safe now, why not? Before the removal of the lockdown, the President said he had spoken with the experts and they are claiming that it was safe to remove the lockdown. I know very well that the Education Ministry and its agencies will certainly come out with some guidelines and we the implementers are supposed to make sure that those structures or framework are adhered to.”
If you ask me for my personal view on this thing, I’ll say that I still see students who have been asked to stay home still roaming on the street. I also see them engaging in a lot of social activities on the streets. So if there is a directive that we should go to the classroom as at now, and now the governments give us some measures to adhere to, then we will adhere to the measures.”
Meanwhile, the President of the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), Angel Carbonu who also spoke on Point Blank insists that it is not currently safe to reopen schools.