The National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) has called on government to allow all final year students of Junior High Schools, Senior High Schools and Tertiary should to return to the classroom but with strict adherence to the health protocols like social distancing, limited contact hours, few pupil-to-teacher ratio, decongestion of classes among others.
This, NUGS said will help stop the spread of covid-19 while students have the opportunity to prepare and to take their transition exams in a usual physical session.
The President of NUGS, Isaac Jay Hyde said this at a press conference.
- NUGS PROPOSES A GRADUALIST APPROACH & SPECIAL RESTRICTIONS FOR STUDENTS TOWARDS THE RE-OPENING OF SCHOOLS
Life and economies around the world are gradually bouncing back to what could be termed as “an abnormal normal” after almost 4 months of standstills. The debates of whether the time is right to eventually ease restrictions are heard in our homes for the past two weeks ; these debates are growing even louder ahead of the president’s address next week. This debate is borne out of the confusion that the same experts who say we must learn to live with the virus ; also maintain the virus spreads only through contacts and unrestricted movements.
For us students, our biggest concern and uncertainty has been whether or not it is appropriate to get schools operational again.
Our call on this matter is based on 2 things:
- After we engaged available date and experts advise around the world ; and
- Data collected in our online survey among some 2,725 students across the length and breadth of the country. Of this number, 2.9% were post graduate students ; 39% from universities ; 30.6% from the colleges of Education ; and 27.5% were SHS students. The lead researchers were my fellow hardworking President of GRASAG National , Samuel Sagoe and my dedicated Secretary for Education of NUGS, Nii Stallone.
We hereby make the following conclusions and recommendations :
- About 80 percent of students, majority of which are at the tertiary level, are not in the right frame of mind to take online exams. They fear of the unknown such as power cut, exhaustion of bundles etc. during online activities. But majority of them are still willing to take the exams online since they see it as the only option occasioned by the pandemic. It is for this reason we continue to make passionate calls on universities and government to create a congenial atmosphere for students. According to the NUGS survey, among the main challenges facing students when using the Learning Management System, about 40% of them was on accessibility and availability ; whereas 28% was on high cost of data. We repeat that none of the subventions that we touched on earlier have been granted, we are only hoping as the president assured us, we are remembered when the Covid trust fund is disbursed .
- The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) ; the World Food Program (WFP) and the World Bank have warned that the extended closures of schools as a measure to contain the spread of the pandemic “present an unprecedented risk to children’s education and wellbeing, particularly for the most marginalized children who rely on school for their education, health, safety and nutrition”. Some 370 million children from poor families are currently missing out on nutritious meals needed to boost their immunity. These experts have warned they could become the “hidden victims” should the closure of schools remain so.
- We agree with the above observation by the international community primarily because as a Union we also came across similar data when we rolled out our social intervention project called the NUGS Food and Goods Bank a month ago. The over 2,000 brothers and sisters including international students who accessed the Bank are not going to survive if they cannot access the affordable foods and welfare facilities in their various schools, coupled with expensive data for online exams.
- But where we part company with the call, is the peculiar situation we are faced with here in Ghana. According to the Ministry of Education 2019 budget, students admitted to the SHS alone was over a million. The congested nature of our classes and lecture halls could be a triggering point for mass infection of the novel virus among the youths of this country. The ripple effects at the home and various points of contacts could plunge the nation into further health crisis. This is buttressed by the NUGS survey which proposed that based on their triangulated data analysis and reviews, government should adopt the “gradualist approach” to re-opening schools.
- We therefore propose that in order to respond positively to safeguard the future of our students and children despite the current times, government should consider imposing special restrictions to the operations of schools.
We recommend this special restrictions from now till September until further notice.
In this restriction,
- All final year students of Junior High Schools , Senior High Schools and Tertiary should be allowed to return to the classroom but with strict adherence to the health protocols like social distancing, limited contact hours, few pupil-to-teacher ratio, decongestion of classes among others . This will afford them the opportunity to prepare and to take their transition exams in a usual physical session.
- On the other hand, Elementary schools (KG, Primary) should remain closed. Also, continuing students at the JHS, SHS and Tertiary levels should remain home.
- Government should partner schools and other bodies like Zoomlion among others to fumigate various SHS and tertiary schools once again before commencing this special restriction.
- The resuming of SHS final year students and final year tertiary students should be preceded by aggressive testing and diagnostic system before students are allowed to come to boarding houses or campuses
- There should be regular fumigation exercises as well as adequate provision of the required PPEs and health protocols recommended by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and World Health Organization (WHO)
- We recommend enough gun thermometers, facemasks at least each student should have 3; veronica buckets at every vantage point of the school, liquid soups and tissues ; dispensing machines to dispense sanitizers at the various washrooms ; and a thorough and regular cleaning by the janitors of these facilities which are in constant use. The janitors must also be well equipped with the appropriate PPEs.
- Government in collaboration with various school authorities must come up with clear guidelines on how suspected cases in schools should be handled and contained to avoid any initial spread, should there be any.
- There should be close surveillance by special health taskforces in various schools to ensure that the prescribed protocols like social distancing , temperature checks among others are adhered to the very core.
- Teachers and lecturers should be trained to enforce some of these directives in the absence of the taskforce
- As much as possible, students should avoid unnecessary movement rather, the clearly spelled out timetable and scheduled meetings.
- A more community-based communications strategy should be adopted in order to constantly keep students, staff and non-staff informed about the virus and its associated precautions.
- After the final year students of SHS and tertiary have completed, a shift module for the entire education system can then be adopted. We however hope that by September , the curve would have declined. Hence, the shift system will be the best tool to gradually warm the entire nation into resuming and restoring academic life back to normal.
Ghana| Atinkaonline.com| Porcia Oforiwaa Ofori