Builsa South law maker, Dr. Clement Apaak of the National Democratic Congress has called the president of Ghana to place lives above grades.
He said this in a statement issued to reply the Government on their strict decision not to close down schools amidst increase in coronavirus cases
In other excerpts of his statement, the law maker expressed shockingly on Matthew Opoku Prempeh’s assertion on PeaceFm saying, who should work for teachers for them to be paid. To Apaak, that statement was unfortunate.
“It is heartbreaking, to hear the Minister for Education, Matthew Opoku Prempeh, ask a very unfortunate question of those expected to work for teachers to be paid…”
Read Dr Apaak’s full statement below:
STATEMENT – PLACE LIVES ABOVE GRADES, DR. APAAK REPLIES
Amidst heightened fears over the rising cases of COVID-19 among schools across the country, Ghanaians expect nothing short of responsible leadership from officials of state.
A few days ago, the Accra Girls Senior High School saw parents thronging its premises with the sole aim to take away their wards from school after some of their colleagues tested positive for the coronavirus. The situation was so frightening listening to parents who love their children and are ready to go all length to provide them the safety they require.
As we speak, Ghana’s case count have crossed 23,000 with no sign of a decline in daily results in sight. Schools across the country, have began recording cases or suspected cases. The Wesley Senior High School in Konongo, for instance, confirmed a case. The Mpraeso Senior High School was reported to have 9 suspected cases of covid-19. The Odorgonno Senior High School, has also confirmed cases two weeks after schools were reopened. The Ada Senior High Technical School, has also recorded 7 positive COVID-19 cases.
The above portends that many other schools may have cases that are yet to be reported for the attention of the public. And the only reason more schools are not reporting is the gag order by the GES. Remember that parents have no access to their wards, no visitation, and school authorities are sanctioned for speaking to the media. Many school heads have also confiscated phones of students per reports.
Following from the growing calls for schools to be shut down to protect lives, the NDC Minority in the Parliament of Ghana, issued a press statement cautioning government while advising on the need to close down schools to protect lives.
In the midst of the discussions, many individuals and organizations, have added their voices for the government to close down schools in order to ensure the protection of the lives of the young children whom government is holding back at school.
Key among these, is the Ghana Medical Association (GMA), which has called on government to prioritize lives over exams. This institution, the GMA, is an important institution in Ghana that is leading in the fight against this deadly coronavirus. Their caution, if thrown to the dogs, would spell danger for this country.
Indeed, some initial 113 members issued a statement a couple of weeks back cautioning on mass gatherings, which have the potential of escalating the spread of the virus. Another 200 doctors, equally cautioned government and institutions subsequently. Infact, the GMA has reported 150 medical doctors have contracted the virus, with 5 of them dead. As well 779 health staff have tested positive and 9 have lost thier lives. These are frontline health workers.
Educationist, teachers and the teacher unions such as NAGRAT have called on government to take urgent steps to ensure the closure of schools in order to prevent the risks that school children are exposed to.
Unfortunately, the top actors including the Minister for Education and the Ghana Education Service (GES), remain intransigent in their disagreements with voices of reason. Those who have expressed genuine opinions and called on government to take steps to reverse the reopening of schools, did so with the greatest interest of Ghanaians.
It is heartbreaking, to hear the Minister for Education, Matthew Opoku Prempeh, ask a very unfortunate question of those expected to work for teachers to be paid. Nigeria, Kenya, nations with relatively low number of infections, comparable to their populations, have had to reverse their decisions to reopen schools. In the case of Kenya, a decision has been made boldly to cancel education and educational activities for the rest of the year 2020. Leadership has decided to examine this unique conditions on making up for the lost academic year when the coronavirus is minimized if not defeated completely.
These two countries, including other countries across the world, which have reopened and closed again, have teachers who teach in their respective schools. They are aware that these teachers must be paid salaries. Has the Minister bothered to know how the teachers are doing it? How they are making provisions among their resources with the clear commitment towards the lives of their future leaders? Of what use is salary to teachers when they are dead of the virus before the salaries arrive?
To top it all, the Ghana Education Service, which is expected to ensure the safety of its teachers and students, has closed its ears to the need to re-evaluate the drive to have WASSCE exams taken by these students. GES provides the intransigence of not turning back. It must be stated clearly that WASSCE is an examination taken by West African Countries. It is not peculiar to Ghana. And we are struggling to come to terms with the placement of exams ahead of lives. So what happens after the exams are taken and before the results are released, all of these school children we are burnt on placing on harm’s way are no more? It is worthy of note that a psychologist, Mrs. Aku Hayfron, opined that the threat of this virus and its devastating abilities, could impart fear and panic among our students, leading to poor performance. When the environment ahead of the taking of these exams is one of fear and panic, can we be assured that our school children would be in their right frames of mind to perform as expected?
It is unfortunate, that, with the rising cases of high profile infections among people who are well placed to observe the COVID-19 protocols, government remains blind to the dangers school children are exposed to. There have been pictures and video evidence of school children seen outside their school premises, completely disregarding the wearing of masks and social distancing.
It is important to apprise our minds to the fact that we need to protect lives, which is what first provides us the opportunity to do any other things. The claims by the Minister for Education that these students would be exposed to rape predators is just laughable and presents a situation that suggests the irresponsibility on the part of parents who are unable to care for their wards when at home.
The panic among parents and members of the general public, is justified as more and more schools are recording COVID-19 cases each passing day. Ghana must take lessons from the France and South Korea experience and place lives ahead of anything else. Indeed, to acquire a grade and end up in a grave, is needless. We can postpone the grades. It’s better to miss a grade than to dig a grave.
Dr. Clement Apaak
M.P, Builsa South and Deputy Ranking Member on the Education Committee of Parliament