A report by an education think tank, the Institute for Education Studies (IFEST), has shown that 78 percent of students and teachers are satisfied with the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) given them since the reopening of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Being the second of its kind, the research titled “Education in the midst of a pandemic” focused on tracking the provision of PPE to schools, the challenges being faced by students and teachers.
This is in relation to the implementation of the relevant health protocols to ascertain if there is a need to shut down the schools in the midst of the perceived challenges.
According to a statement signed by the Acting Executive Director of the group, Peter Anti, the two-week study captured 1,245 respondents including 513 teachers and 732 students from Junior and Senior High Schools from 80 districts across 13 regions in the country.
1. 78% of the respondents are satisfied with the provision of the relevant PPEs to the schools. These are respondents who answered YES to questions pertaining to the provision of veronica buckets, nose masks, hand sanitizers and thermometer guns.
2. 22% indicated that they have still not received the full complement of the relevant PPEs. Respondents in districts such as Kasena Nankane, Sekyere Kumawu, Ekumfi, Talensi, Awutu Breku, Awutu Senya East, Boso indicated that they do not have the full complement of their PPEs.
3. 67% of the respondents indicated that they have been able to implement the 25/30 students in class policy. However, 33% mentioned that they have not been able to do so and indicated that there seems to be congestion. Again, in relation to the practice of social distancing on campus, 51% mentioned that they have not been able to implement the social distancing protocols on campus.
4. 42% mentioned that they were oblivious of what to do when there is a possible incidence of a case of Covid-19 on campus. Respondents from districts such as Ejisu, Juaben, Ekumfi, Bosome Freho, Talensi, Ahafo-Ano South West, Atwima Nwabiagya, Awutu-Senya East etc. indicated that they were unaware whether their schools have been linked to a health facility.
Aside from the level of satisfaction among the students and staff, a few other hitches existed in the schools.
Key amongst them is the discomfort the indoor break system has brought to the students and the congestion in dormitories and classrooms. The others are:
1. Students not adhering to the health protocols during break time, in their dormitory and after closing.
2. Lack of accommodation for day students.
3. Congestion in some dormitories as a result of the gold-track students on campus.Inadequate source of water for students’ usage on campus.
4. Students refusing to disclose their health status to friends and teachers for the fear of being tagged as an example of a COVID-19 case.
5. Staff room always full due to the directive by certain heads and directors of education at the district level, that each teacher in the school should be present always (this was prominent among the Basic school teachers)
6. Continuous use of school premises by external people.
7. Insufficiency of the PPEs provided.
8. BECE candidates’ inability to fully appreciate the indoor break system.
Support to reopening
In relation to whether respondents still support or do not support the decision to partially reopen schools, 69.3% out of the 732 students indicated that they STILL SUPPORT the reopening of the schools despite the challenges, 26.4% mentioned that they wish the schools will be closed down while 4.3% said they were indifferent.
The major reason given by the students was that, they needed to finish their education.
For the WASSCE candidates, some indicated that their parents have already purchased their admission forms for entry into the university.
For the teachers, it was a split decision since 52.1% indicated that the schools should be closed while 47.9% otherwise.
IFEST is demanding that the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service to conduct an immediate audit of the PPE supplied to the schools to identify the shortages is the system.
Additionally, the think tank wants the Gold track SHS evacuated to create more space for the final year in terms of social distancing. Other recommendations are:
1. The Ministry of Education (MoE) and the Ghana Education Service (GES) as a matter of urgency should convey a meeting of all relevant stakeholders especially the teacher unions and the parents’ association to recommit themselves to the safety of students and staff on campus. This should be publicly broadcasted to win the trust of the public that the managers of our schools are committed to safety in our schools.
2. MoE and GES should immediately undertake an audit of the PPEs supplied to schools to identify schools with shortfalls and provide them with what they need.
3. MoE and GES should as a matter of urgency employ the services of counsellors and psychologist to visit the various schools within the next one week to encourage and counsel the students. This will help prepare them mentally for the examination.
4. MoE and GES should take steps to possibly evacuate the gold-track students from campus. This will create a lot of space on campus especially the dormitories for the practice of the social distancing protocols.
5. The school authorities (Heads and teachers) should take steps to enforce all the relevant social distancing protocols.