A 'Ghana COVID-19 School Re-opening Monitoring' Report, has cited a high deficit of health facilities and personnel at the pre-tertiary educational level particularly the Ashanti Region.
This scenario, according to the Report, did not augur well for the country's preparedness to manage effectively suspected cases of the disease as they occur in schools.
Africa Education Watch, a civil society organization (CSO), which documented the Report after a recent monitoring exercise, sampling 34 Senior High Schools (SHSs) and 64 basic schools across the Region, stressed the need for the government to provide well-equipped health facility for every school.
“Our monitoring found that the few schools, including; Prempeh College and St. Louis SHS that had sick bays, were virtually constructed and managed by the Parent-Teacher-Associations (PTAs).
“The government had no hand or little involvement in the operations of those facilities,” Mr. Mike Owusu Gyimah, a Member of the Monitoring Team and Regional Representative of Africa Education Watch, noted.
The exercise, he stressed, uncovered that some schools, including; Tweneboah Kodua SHS had been using science teachers as health personnel due to the unavailability of qualified healthcare workers.
In the case of KNUST SHS, the institution though had a PTA-constructed sick bay it had not been functioning as expected, because it lacked the requisite qualified health staff and material resources.
“This development is a serious setback to Ghana's efforts to ensuring the safety of students, and also responding swiftly to suspected cases of COVID-19 at the pre-tertiary educational level,” the Regional Representative cautioned.
The Report recommended to the government to develop a COVID-19 School Management Manual, to guide school heads, and train them on it before reopening schools on the larger-scale.
Additionally, the Ghana Education Service (GES) ought to ensure health and safety training for school staff preceding school reopening.
Mr. Owusu Gyimah, who also chairs the Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC) in Ashanti, addressing the Regional launch of the 'Ghana COVID-19 Back-to-School Monitoring Report', at Atonsu-Monaco in the Asokwa Municipality, said the COVID-19 pandemic should not be under-estimated.
The government on May 31, this year, issued a directive to the Ministry of Education (MoE) and GES to reopen schools for SHS final-year students to prepare and sit for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), commencing July to September.
In all, Ghana's pre-tertiary educational system opened up for over one million students - about 12 per cent of the total pre-tertiary population of nine million.
The monitoring exercise, sponsored by Actionaid Ghana, was to monitor implementation progress, challenges and the impact on quality, equity and inclusion regarding the COVID-19 safety protocols and guidelines as the schools reopened.
The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and World Health Organization (WHO) have issued protocols to guide countries in planning the reopening of schools.
These protocols and guidelines form an embodiment of psycho-social, water, sanitation and hygiene, health and safety, pedagogic and behavioural pre-requisites to make schools safer for students, teachers and non-teaching staff.
Mr Owusu Gyimah, touching on the provision of personal protective items to the schools, said the monitoring exercise found that many of the basic and second-cycle educational institutions in the Region were provided with such items.
They received adequate nose masks, hand sanitizers and Veronica buckets.
However, the Report recommended decentralization in the distribution and procurement of the protective items to avoid delay in their delivery.
Some schools reportedly received the protective items after schools had re-opened due to the centralization of the distribution system.
Mr. Owusu Gyimah, who is also the Regional Chairman of the Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC), called for schools, which had not been fenced to be assisted to do so.
This, he said, would boost effective monitoring by the school authorities, while also restricting the movement of students in view of the infectious nature of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.