President Akufo-Addo in his 16th address to update the nation on Covid-19 and related matters said among others that “..the decision has been taken by the Ghana Education Service, after consultation with the relevant stakeholders, for SHS 2 and JHS 2 students to return to school from 5th October to 14th December 2020 to complete their academic year.”

The President added that “The Ghana Education Service, after further consultations, has decided to postpone the remainder of the academic year for all nursery, kindergarten, primary, JHS 1 and SHS 1 students.

The next academic year will resume in January 2021, with appropriate adjustments made to the curriculum, to ensure that nothing is lost from the previous year”.

Matters Arising:

1) What has become of the ten member School Reopening Committee inaugurated on August 24th by the Minister for Education, Matthew Opoku Prempeh ..”to outline safety precautions for the reopening of schools in the pre-tertiary subsector”

The Committee chaired by Professor Dominic Fobih, has members made up of representatives from the Ghana Education Service, UNICEF, private school sector, parents, and the Ministry of Education.

The Committee was formed after President Akufo-Addo said in an earlier update to the nation that the debate on when schools across the country will reopen calls for more deliberations and subsequently tasked the Ministry of Education to continue to engage “the Ghana Education Service (GES) and all relevant stakeholders to conclude discussions on the modalities surrounding the reopening of our pre-tertiary schools”.

Now that the President has announced the reopening of schools way ahead of the date the committee was expected to submit its recommendations to the Education Minister, 21 September 2020, for onward submission to the President, what was/is the relevance of the committee?

If President Akufo-Addo had no need for the outcome of the work of the committee why was it formed? Should the committee not be disbanded immediately?

2) Which relevant stakeholders were consulted as the President claims, even if via the Ghana Education Service?

Fact, the parliamentary Committee On Education has never been consulted or informed formally on anything and everything to do with education in Ghana in the era of Covid-19 since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Well, we now know that key stakeholders like NAGRAT and the Ghana National Council of Private Schools were not consulted either.

According to the President of the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), Mr. Eric Angel Carbonu, his Association was not consulted before the decision to reopen schools for Senior High School 2 students and Junior High School 2 students.

“We were not involved at the consultative level…Our inputs were not sought so we cannot say whether the timing was correct or not” according to the NAGRAT boss.

Executive Director of Ghana National Council of Private Schools (GNACOPS), Enoch Kwasi Gyetuah described as shocking and disappointing claims by President Akufo-Addo that he consulted relevant stakeholders in a decision to reopen schools.

Speaking in an interview with GhanaWeb, Mr Kwasi Gyetuah said “it’s shocking, really really shocking…because as a major stakeholder in education, we have not been engaged …we have not been consulted so when government comes out and announce that with relevant stakeholders, who are those relevant stakeholders”

3) What plans have been activated to ensure timely fumigation and supply of adequate PPEs?

What is the guarantee that all the schools would be fumigated and adequate PPEs deployed before the students arrive in school? These questions are informed by the inability of government to ensure that all schools were fumigated and PPEs available to schools before students reported to school when final year SHS and JHS students went back to school to prepare for thier examinations.

There were several confirmed reports of some schools being fumigated after students arrived on campus, in some cases days after. In the case of PPEs, some schools got supplies over a week after the final year students returned to prepare to write thier examinations a couple of weeks ago.

This was in spite of a promise by government to fumigate and supply the PPEs before the students arrived.

So, when President Akufo-Addo says that “Just as was done in the case of final year university, JHS and SHS students, all JHS 2 and SHS 2 students, as well as all teaching and non-teaching staff, will be given reusable face masks.

Each school will be provided with Veronica Buckets, gallons of liquid soap, rolls of tissue paper, thermometer guns, and 200 milli-litre containers of sanitizers”, we must ask when?

A week before schools reopen? Two days before the students report? We do not expect a repetition of the unjustified delays when the final year SHS and JHS students arrived in school, which exposed students to danger.

In summary, if NAGRAT and the Ghana National Council of Private Schools were not consulted, and the School Reopening Committee formed at the behest of the President, is yet to present its report, which “relevant stakeholders” were consulted?

As well, when exactly would adequate PPEs be supplied to the schools, a week before the students arrive?

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Dr. Clement Abasinaab Apaak is M.P for Builsa-South and Deputy Ranking Member on the Education Committee of Parliament.