Ghanaian students have not been very lucky in recent years, have they?
I mean – they have been deprived of tuition in the past, because their leadership had decided students should go and cart cocoa from cocoa farms. At other times, massive political unrest on campuses had caused disruption of work on campuses.
So a smile played on my lips when President Akufo-Addo, in his 12th
address to the nation on Covid-19 emphasised referred twice to what he called the “Akufo-Addo graduates.”
The first mention occurred in this passage:
QUOTE:“ [The] SHS 3 students, also referred to by some as the ‘Akufo-Addo graduates’, are the first group of beneficiaries of Government’s Free Senior High School policy,to sit the WASSCE exams. 1.2 million children, the highest such enrolment in our nation’s history, [are currently in senior high schools] because of this policy”. UNQUOTE.
The second reference to them appeared in this passage:
QUOTE: “I take this opportunity to assure all parents and guardians that [my] Government is determined to protect the lives of the eight hundred thousand (800,000) students, teachers and non-teaching staff, who will be returning to school from tomorrow. I will be the last person to put the lives of the ‘Akufo-Addo graduates’ at risk.” UNQUOTE
It is gratifying to find that the President identifies himself so closely with the welfare of our students, for as he acknowledged, the future development of the country will rest on their shoulders.
Just how important it is for the country to cherish its students is illustrated by the dialogue which officials of OccupyGhana (knowledgeable persons trained by educational institutions) have been carrying out with the Ghana health authorities on their management of the Covid-19 pandemic.
OccupyGhana held a “zoom meeting” with the “entire leadership” of the Government’s Covid-19 team in the evening of 19 June 2020.
And it says:“It was a very engaging meeting.”
The group had earlier expressed “scepticism about some of the death figures put out with regard to Covid-19 cases in the country.” There was cause for it to suspect that the death numbers issued by the GHS were “being massaged.” So OccupyGhana complained about this in a statement on June 15, 2020.
The GHS had issued a statement denying that there was any such “massaging” of death figures. A zoom meeting was subsequently convened by both parties, where the Service sought to clarify its position.
OccupyGhana says it “vehemently disagreed” with, and still “questions” the science behind the GHS’ claim [that] GHS was “verifying the ‘epidemiological condition’ of [those who had died] “from COVID-19.”
In the opinion of OccupyGhana,“this terminology caused “confusion”, since “the verification team in Accra was not doing any retesting or post mortems”. Simply put, there was “nothing to verify, outside a simple phone call to the people on the ground!”
OccupyGhana stated that it still considers “the excuse of a delay in releasing test results, due to the so-called “verification”, unacceptable and untenable and provides “grounds to OccupyGhana's expressed suspicion. These delays erode public confidence in the GHS’ data.”
In fact, according to OccupyGhana, it was “entirely possible” that, had “the full information” been made available, “the President’s decision” [to ease the knock-down] and “public reaction” [to it] “would have been different.”
Other questions raised by OccupyGhana at the meeting included: Is it Government policy to head for ‘herd immunity’? Why are ambulances not responding to the several callers? Why is there so much delay in releasing test results? Why has contact tracing reduced? Why is there a shortage of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)? [Is it not a fact] that the holding and treatment centres in the Greater Accra and Ashanti Regions (the two epicentres) are full?
On ‘herd immunity', OccupyGhana was “assured that this was not the Government’s intention.”
With regard to Ambulance Response, the
GHS said “they did not consider this to be within their remit”. OccupyGhana expressed concern that the delays “could be due to not enough ambulances having been assigned for COVID-19 related use.” Again, OccupyGhana was assured at the meeting that its “concerns would be addressed.” OccupyGhana commented: “We will continue to monitor the situation”.
On the issue of delays in releasing test results, the GHS had earlier claimed that it took 48 hours for most results to be released. But OccupyGhana did not accept the accuracy of that statement. “As was shown at the meeting, currently, some results take as much as seven days. Sometimes it takes much longer to receive results.”
OccupyGhana explained: “We, therefore, raised further questions on whether the testing centres are optimised to perform? Are all the testing centres running, and if not, why? Do the testing centres have data entry issues?
“Do the sample collection facilities adequately fill the case forms that accompany all the samples? Is there a high number of mislabelling?
“Ultimately, the meeting conceded that there are indeed delays and assured us that a lot was being done to address that. For instance, a barcode labelling system, with electronic transmission of test results through the 'SORMAS app' has been introduced. We will continue to watch this space since reducing the delay in getting test results will reduce anxiety among those who have tested, and then dovetail into the discharge strategy so that patients are discharged in good time to make room for others.”
On Reduced Contact Tracing, Occupy Ghana was informed that “Ghana is no longer doing the enhanced contact tracing that characterised the lock-down, and that the mass contact tracing team has been disbanded.”
OccupyGhana declared: “We disagree, strongly. At the end of the lockdown on 19 April 2020, Ghana had 1,042 positive cases. Currently, we have a total of 13,717 positive cases of which 3,558 are active.
“We [therefore] find this new policy bizarre and counter-intuitive. We know enhanced tracing has financial implications, but it beggars belief that [it] would be discontinued when the daily number of new positive cases is increasing. Early detection and treatment are critical to preventing severe and critical cases. We forcefully expressed these concerns and have been assured that they will be addressed. We will continue to advocate for and demand a return to enhanced tracing.”
With regard to Data Sanctity, OccupyGhana maintained that “we also pointed out, and ... the Government COVID-19 team admitted, [that] several of the deaths then not included in the national total, had occurred some two to three weeks before the President recently further eased restrictions.
“To us, that meant that as at the time the President was taking that decision and announcing it, both he and Ghanaians had been denied the full complement of the data and the true picture. It is entirely possible that had the full information been made available, the President’s decision and public reaction would have been different.”
Delays eroded public confidence in the GHS’ data, OccupyGhana said. “e were assured that the problem had been resolved and that there would be more real-time updates.”
Long may such reasoned, objective discussions take place. We thank our stars that when such a terrible pandemic descended upon us, we had groups with the intellectual depth, both within and outside the public service, to agree to let the science do the talking.