Teacher unions have appealed to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to extend the four-week shutdown of basic and second-cycle schools in the country to cover final-year students in those schools.
They said the estimated 397,500 students who would write the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) in June 2020 and the about 490,882 students who would write the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) could all be at risk of contracting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“This number excludes teachers and other supporting staff preparing the candidates for the examinations.
Roughly, more than 1,000,000 students, teachers and non-teaching staff will be congregating on a daily basis during the examinations, and that is the basis for our suggestion to the President to consider including the candidates in the shutdown,” the Spokesperson for the unions, Mr Thomas T. Musah, said.
DirectivePresident Nana Akufo-Addo last Sunday announced a ban on all public gatherings for the next four weeks, in reaction to the confirmation of five more COVID–19 cases in the country, bringing the number to seven so far.
He also directed that all universities, SHSs, basic schools, both private and public, be closed down, effective Monday, March 16, 2020, until further notice.
However, final-year JHS and SHS students were exempted from the directive and are to remain in school and adhere to prescribed social distancing protocols while they prepare for their examinations, which begin in May and June 2020, respectively.
ConcernsThe unions, comprising the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), the Teachers and Educational Workers Union (TEWU) and the Coalition of Concerned Teachers, Ghana (CCT-GH), claimed that the students would rather be exposed to the virus when allowed to remain in school, since day students were among them.
According to Mr Musah, who is also the General Secretary of GNAT, the schools could, therefore, be turned into incubation centres for the COVID-19 because of the unlimited social interactions and movements in and outside the school environment.
He mentioned social interactions to include the Ghanaian culture of handshaking, the poor attitude to the environment and the fact that “prescriptions are easier given than effected”.
“The unions hereby plead with the government to include BECE and WASSCE candidates in the shutdown to avert an imminent spread, which could befall our beloved students and pupils, their parents and guardians and the entire Ghanaian people.
“We further call on the government to engage WAEC member states to consider a possible change in the WASSCE timetable for the sake of the students,” he said.
Mr Musah explained that it was an issue of safety first, “until such a time that we can say that it is safe to get it done”, adding that since the final-year students included day students, the safety of the rest of the students was not guaranteed.
He wondered what the examinations would do to the students should they be written and, at the end, some students contracted the virus and died.
MeasuresAsked whether the candidates would not become “rusty” during their long stay at home, Mr Musah explained that teachers had made available enough homework, exercises, textbooks and project work to occupy the students within the period.
He also said some teachers had created platforms with parents to give assignments to students to prepare them adequately for the examinations.
He urged Ghanaians “to err on the side of caution” by avoiding all engagements and activities which could have a toll on their health and general well-being.
He commended President Akufo-Addo for the measures taken so far to curb the spread of the virus in the country, citing the $100-million financial commitment by the government as a laudable initiative.
Story by Carlos Afanou