Panafrican News Agency

Coronavirus: Ghana government rejects calls to close schools because of cases of virus

Accra, Ghana (PANA) - The Ghana government has strongly kicked against calls by a section of the public to close Senior High Schools (SHSs) following the detection of dozens of cases of COVID-19 in some of them.

Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyemang-Manu, said closing down schools would be "a defeatist and coward person’s approach" and the government would have none of that.

Instead, he said, government would rather fight the pandemic to save lives.

“Who knows when this disease is going to go away from the world? We haven’t got the vaccine yet so what can we do? So closing down the schools is defeatist. It’s a coward person’s approach and that’s not what we are going to do."

The Director-General of the Ghana Education Service (GES), Professor Kwasi Owusu Amankwah, on his part said: “It is much safer to keep the students in school than release them to go home where they cannot be adequately protected."

The SHSs reopened a few weeks ago for final year students to write their exit examinations and also for the second batch of second year students to complete their second semester.

The Junior High Schools, which are mainly day schools, have also reopened for final year students to write their exit examinations.

Four pre-tertiary teacher unions, the national parent-teacher association, the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) and many individuals have called for the closure of schools to check the spread of the virus in those environments and save lives.

The pre-tertiary teacher unions expressed regret that measures put in place by the authorities to ensure the safety of staff and students have not been fully implemented.

A joint statement by the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), Teachers and Educational Workers Union (TEWU) and the Coalition of Concerned Teachers (CCT) warned last Thursday that the situation could be dire if schools were not closed down immediately.

“Our children are our future and we must protect them. For how long can we stand and look while our children are consigned to death?...The situation is grim and deadly."

The unions said the conditions for the re-opening of the schools are "either limited or just not there", adding that an already bad situation had been compounded by the Electoral Commission visiting schools to register students, thereby breaching the COVID-19 protocols the more.


On its part, the National Council of Parent-Teacher Associations (NCPTAs) has asked the government to, as a matter of urgency, close down the schools, send home all students and postpone examinations of the final year SHS until further notice.

A statement issued the National President of NCPTAs, Alexander Yaw Danso, said the current circumstances following the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in SHSs did not make it conducive for the students to stay in schools.

“In the current circumstances, the children are psychologically unstable and would, therefore, not be of sound mind to write the West African Senior Secondary School Examination (WASSCE) and Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) and come out successfully.

“We, therefore, suggest that these examinations be postponed till the situation is brought under control,” the statement said.

It added that in the event of students being sent home, parents are advised to isolate and test their children for the 14-day period before integrating them into the larger family for the sake of everybody’s safety.

But Professor Amankwah, the top education civil servant, has rejected the calls saying the government had supplied the school authorities, teaching and non-teaching staff as well as students with adequate protective materials to prevent any incidence and spread of the pandemic in schools.

These include large buckets with taps for running water, face masks, hand sanitizers and soap. The government has also stressed that parents and guardians should not visit the schools and advised students to observe social distancing and other protocols.

Deputy Health Minister Dr. Bernard Okoe Boye told reporters that social interventions and initiatives were undertaken prior to the reopening of the schools.

He said the government did not act on its own accord but held consultations with the various teacher and parent unions, as well as stakeholders in the education sector, adding that it was upon these consultations that the government took the decision to allow the students to go back to school.

"The government had to take care of a population of over 1.7 million comprising students, lecturers, teachers and non-teaching staff," Dr. Okoe Boye said. 

Some 200,000 people had to be dealt with at the tertiary level, 800,000 at the SHS and 750,000 at the JHS.

“So in all, this is an operation that took care of over 1.7 million Ghanaians, one of the biggest operations ever carried out,” he said.

Public opinion is divided over the issue with some in favour of closing the schools while others say the students must stay in school so they can write their final examinations.

As at Friday, Ghana’s case count had shot up to 26,572 after 447 new cases were recorded, the Ghana Health Service (GHS) said, with the number of discharge/recoveries at 22,915.

It said five more people have died bringing the death toll to 144 while the number of active cases is 3,515.

-0- PANA RA/MA 18July2020