NATIONAL DIALOGUE ON BASIC EDUCATION FRAMEWORK FOR RE-OPENING AND BEYOND
The Foundation for Security and Development in Africa (FOSDA) in partnership with Oxfam in Ghana and Media General has organized a Television Conference for experts in Education and Development to profile practical ideas to inform public policy decisions in the education sector during and post COVID-19 periods. The conference provided ideas for government to consider in the short and medium to long term to develop the sector.
The Conference was organized under the Ghana Youth Development Enhancement Programme (GYDEP); the theme was Education in Crises: Covid-19 And Beyond, Framework for Reopening Basic Schools.
The dialogue has become necessary given the multi-facet challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked on the global and socio-economic infrastructure, including Ghana.
“We need a mass people in tune with technology”. These were the words of Dr Anis Haifer in response to blending the traditional face to face style of teaching and learning with the emerging virtual trends.
The recommendations made by the resource persons include the following.
1. Promoting hygiene, sanitation, and health beginning with Schools.
2. Creating a conducive environment in all schools to promote safety and provide logistics for practicing the COVID-19 protocols such as water for washing of hands, soap, nose masks and sanitizers.
3. Continuously educating children of the COVID-19 and safety protocols.
4. Use opportunity provided by COVID -19 to improve poor education infrastructure. E- learning cannot replace traditional physical learning method but can complement it. Since schools will definitely re-open there, we must invest in ensuring that all school at least have basic infrastructure like toilets. Make the learning environment an oasis of excellence.
5. Reclaiming lost time should focus on how education is impacting lives of children positively. ‘education should not be limited to how much u absorb but how you have changed’.
6. Complement traditional education with e-learning and radio which is cheaper and restrictions to protect children.
7. Ensure inclusion. No child must be left out of Ghana’s education system. Children with all kinds of disability should be adequately catered for.
The participants were Dr. Anis Haifer, Education Consultant and a Counsel Member of the Ghana Education Service, Mr. Zakaria Sulemana, Regional Education Advisor, Oxfam, Dr. Abu Jinapor, Former Head of Department, Early Childhood Education (UEW), Dr Anna Awusie Mensah, Lecturer and Head of the Royal School, Professor George K.T Oduro, Director, Institute of Educational Planning and Administration, Mr. Joseph Atsu Gomegzi Interim National Chair of GNECC and Mr. Charles Sowah, Administrator of the Parent Teacher Association Council.
From March 12 when Ghana recorded its first 2 cases, the whole economy gradually began to slow down until the Government announced a partial lockdown of Accra and Kumasi as well as a total ban of public gathering and closure of schools on 30th March 2020.
The closure of school meant that for most Ghanaian children education is completely disrupted and on hold. The situation has also revealed weaknesses of the education system in Ghana including the slow and weak policy commitments of governments over the years towards modernizing the sector.
The Ministry of Education stepped in during this crisis by setting up an educational TV Channel, Ghana Learning TV, as a provisional measure to address the huge disruption caused by the pandemic in the country’s education system. Whilst this is a remarkable intervention, its implementation has been challenged with equal accessibility, especially by the deprived and rural communities. Aside the fact that the digital infrastructure is completely absent in these areas, many families are not able to afford the gadgets such as the Television and radio sets to facilitate the participation of their children in the online and digital learning processes. These practically widens the inequality gap in the school system where only the privileged ones can access such opportunities in crisis like the COVID pandemic. The National Teleconference on the impact of education was also influenced by the challenge of overcrowding in the classrooms and poor infrastructure and learning materials. Currently in most public schools across the country, classrooms constructed for 35 pupils are sitting between 60 to 80 children.