North Tongu, MP Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa says government should reconsider its policy on the reopening of schools amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The former deputy Education Minister wants schools to re-shut because students have started testing positive for the virus.
Earlier in the week, it was reported that six students from Accra Girls Senior High School tested positive for the virus and out of fear, parents trooped to the school to withdraw their children.
Speaking on the Super Morning Show on Thursday, Mr Okudzeto Ablakwa disclosed that concerned parents from his constituency have been calling him about their wards being in school.
“Parents keep calling and you have no idea the headache, it’s considerable fear, especially among the mothers. They can’t sleep,” he said.
Noting that some state institutions have closed due to a number confirmed coronavirus cases, while schools remain reopen, he said that there’s an enormous amount of anxiety developing among guardians.
But speaking to the host of the show, Wednesday, the Deputy Director General of the Ghana Education Service, Dr Kwabena Tandoh explained that the whole point of insisting that final year students return to school is to allow them to transition in levels and complete their final year which only involves a few weeks more in the 2019/2020 academic year.
However, the North Tongu MP suggests that there are alternatives which the government could have considered and executed rather than put lives at risk.
“Having worked at the Ministry of Education, there are many other options available to us,” he said. “If our concern is transition, one of the options is continuous assessment of students.”
He explained that continuous assessments could also be combined with entrance exams to determine places at tertiary institutions upon graduation from SHS or as part of applications for the services, that is, Ghana Police Service, Immigration, the Ghana Armed Forces or the Navy, should a student want to pursue those careers.
Citing examples like France, Kenya, Nigeria, the UK, who all assessed the potential impact COVID-19 could have had or had on the reopening of their schools, he advised the government to do the same for Ghana.
“We should learn from other countries because other countries are being more cautious,” he said.
“Kenya doesn’t have up to 10,000 cases but their President says that ‘because the numbers are going up and they haven’t peaked, we all don’t understand this virus, we are still learning about it’, they won’t take any chances. So when the 2021/22 academic year begins they will figure out how to continue.”
“That’s putting life first,” Okudzeto stressed. “Let’s have a reassessment.”
However, the National Organiser for the New Patriotic Party, Sammy Awuku says that the decision to reopen schools to final year students in Junior, Senior High Schools and tertiary institutions is backed by data and science.
He disclosed on the show that after engagements between the health authorities, Ministry of Education and the government if students contract the virus and within 21 days, which is the incubation period, the situation becomes alarming, the government will reconsider the policy.
“The students reported not long ago. If any of them contracted or did they contract it whilst at home, they will start showing signs within the first 21 days. So we are still within that incubation period, if they are symptomatic,” he said.
“Within the 21 days, if indeed the situation becomes alarming and the health officials do engage the Ministry of Education and the best way out would be to close down, I’m sure the government wouldn’t hesitate at all to buy into that idea,” he responded.