The death of a student at Aburi Girls Senior High School last week has underscored the need for clear health management protocols in Ghana's secondary schools, education experts say.
Kofi Asare, Executive Director of the education policy think tank Africa Education Watch, is calling on Senior High School (SHS) management to immediately send sick students to hospitals before contacting their parents.
"If a student claims they are sick, what's your problem in sending them to hospital than rejecting their claims?" Mr. Asare questions in a Facebook post.
He noted that some school heads "would not allow students to go home even if they are dying."
Mr. Asare argues mandatory case management protocols would help guide SHS healthcare staff on when to refer students to hospitals versus handling cases internally or contacting guardians.
"In such protocols, SHS must send sick students (who need hospital attention) to a hospital before calling parents to inform them," he emphasized.
The Aburi Girls incident and other near-misses at SHSs like PRESEC have exposed gaps in how schools handle medical emergencies, according to the education advocate.
He is urging parent-teacher associations to take a keener interest in student wellbeing policies and ensuring schools have adequate first aid resources to make timely healthcare decisions.
Read his full post below:
HEALTH MANAGEMENT IN SHS-CASE MANAGEMENT PROTOCOLS NEEDED.
As we continue to mourn the unnecessary and painful death of the Aburi Girls student, we must reflect on the health case management regime in our schools.
There is no written guideline on case management. When school authorities act as follows is purely discretional:
a. ask students to go home,
b. internally treat and discharge,
c. take student to hospital
d. call in parents to assist
The slightest abuse of such discretion could lead to fatal consequences like Aburi.
In that same school, a senior public service director’s daughter was very sick, given malaria treatment on empty stomach and lying on the floor; the same floor this girl laid minutes before her death.
A teacher, witnessing what was happening to the girl, called the director to quickly come for her daughter before she dies.
Director immediately bought light soup at the ministries area, drove like crazy to Aburi, only to meet her daughter lying on the floor like a leaf.
The girl had apparently been given malaria tabs on ORS breakfast. She was so weak, grabbed her straight to Tetteh Quarshie Memorial Hospital, 10-15 mins away from the school.
Earlier this week, we got a call from Presec; one of our boys was sick. We had to pay GHC 120 for first aid eventhough all students have NHIS . I wonder how many more SHS sell medicines at their clinics.
Two days later, another call came through that the boy had been refered, so we should come for him-Malaria.
My first reaction was, shouldn’t the school rather take the boy to Legon Hospital which is a walk away, and have him treated, before calling parent or guardian to inform?
Well, we got him out immediately because of what we had heard at Aburi Girls days ago.
Analyzing these experiences, its obvious our SHS manage health cases with discretion and limited resources, which is not enough.
Some school heads would not allow students to go home even if they are dying. Is the school your family home? If a student claims they are sick, whats your problem in sending them to hospital than rejecting their claims?
Clear, documented health case management protocols are needed for the roles of the health prefect-housemaster-school clinic-senior house master etc..
Sources at Aburi Girls tell us the girl was earlier refused a sick exeat because the woman thought she was feigning the sickness to run home. All such issues would be addressed in a case management protocol.
In such protocols, SHS must send sick students (who need hospital attention) to a hospital before calling parents to inform them.
Parent Associations must be concerned but Health issues in SHS. Its not always about food and infrastructure. It’s also about the diligence with which school authorities act; their resources, etc.