Life they say is full of uncertainties and this corona virus, which has been nicknamed Covid-19 pandemic, is one of such misfortunes. This global pandemic has caused a whole lot of panic to the world we live in, as it has been so disastrous to humankind in all endeavours of life.
It has affected international businesses, sporting activities, imports and exports of goods and services and just to mention a few which are contributory factors to economic growth. Humankind movement is now restricted while conferences, seminars, weddings, festivals, parties and some other educational and social activities are also suspended in some countries with the existence of this pandemic. It has also made life miserable, as people cannot shake hands, hug each other and other merry makings, which make life lovingly and reduce psychological trauma for healthy livelihood. Religious bodies have been affected greatly since the invasion of this pandemic as believers cannot meet together to worship and share their beliefs. One of the bodies which is not left out with the impact of Covid-19 is our education system which I stand to address the impacts, the role of stakeholders and the way forward as a nation.
Generally, the Ghanaian education is divided into three parts namely; Basic, Secondary Cycle and Tertiary Education. The Basic Education comprises of Pre-school, Primary and Junior High. The Secondary Education also comprises of Senior High, Commercial, Technical and Vocational schools while Tertiary Education is made up Universities, Polytechnics, Colleges of Education and Professional institutions. Education which forms the foundation of every society especially Ghana as a nation has been massively affected by the global Covid-19 pandemic and as such needs the attention of all stakeholders such as the government, parents, School Management Committee (SMC), traditional leaders just to mention but a few. Some of these effects of this pandemic to Ghana’s education system include the closure of schools, online teaching and learning and its pregnant challenges, the hell teachers go through in assessing learners learning competencies, suspension of other important co-curricular activities and increase in government’s expenditure.
The Covid-19 pandemic has impeded the Ghanaian child from schooling. The school as an institution where people are educated provides a structured education and promotes the child’s mental, emotional, physical and psychological growth. Aside the acquisition of academic skills, the child also learns other important life skills such as teamwork, good manners, unity, sharing and responsibility. Children are like sponges that can absorb everything that they are taught. Hence, by allowing them to learn in school setting while they are young, they can be molded into good, responsible and hardworking individuals. The role of the school in child development begins at Pre-school from early childhood. Due to Covid-19 pandemic and its mode of spreading, the Ghanaian child who is seen as the future leader of our country can now not be able to attend school to acquire these skills. Though, the child can learn such skills at home, it is at the school that they are well taught by professionals such as trained teachers and counsellors who can assess the child’s behaviuor2 using the appropriate guidance and counselling techniques. However, the closure of schools in Ghana as a result of the pandemic since March this year till now is really affecting the lives of these children and the entire education system as a whole.
Teaching and learning as one of the key areas of our education system has also been affected greatly since the breakout of this pandemic. Teaching and learning process in Ghana’s education system involves an interaction between a facilitator (a teacher, tutor or lecturer) who is considered more knowledgeable in a discipline of study and a learner (a child, pupil, a student) who is usually seen less knowledgeable in the discipline of study. However, unlike the older system of education where the teacher produces almost all the ideas to be acquired in the subject-matter leaving the pupils to be mere passive listeners, the current system of education seeks to focus on child-centeredness which gears towards facilitative learning, co-operative and experiential learning. In these new forms of teaching and learning in the current system of education, the teacher is seen as a facilitator who seeks to aid learners to construct meaning and come to an understanding of important ideas and processes through learners own experiences in life. Thus, the adoption of online tuition because of the Covid-19 pandemic is one of the best ways students could have still been educated but its challenges have made it to cause more harm than good. For instance, the E-learning for tertiary institutions. Most students are not getting total access to this form of learning due to poor internet connectivity, the high cost involved in purchasing internet data coupled with high rate of internet consumption. Also, the Television broadcast teaching for basic and senior high school students is not of benefit to all especially those living in rural and deprived areas where there is no electricity. Therefore, the invasion of this pandemic has greatly affected the teaching and learning process in our education system.
Furthermore, the pandemic has made it difficult for the teacher or the facilitator to assess learners’ learning competencies. Lesson plans in our current system of education is planned to instill some keen learning competencies in the learners. These include Collaboration, Communication, Creativity and Innovation, Critical Thinking, Cultural and Global Citizenship, Managing Information, Personal Growth and well-being and Personal Solving. The teacher thus uses various pedagogies such as learner-centred classrooms, activity-based learning, and use of ICT as a tool for learning and assessment. Hence, teachers are challenged in assessing these competencies using the current pedagogies due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Notwithstanding the already mentioned points, as the adage goes, “All work and no play makes jack a dull boy”, co-curricular activities, thus, activities which take place outside the classroom such as sporting activities form part of our education system. These activities are very useful in the school setting and they help boast students interest, reduce boredom, bring unity and also instill leadership skills in them. The Covid-19 pandemic has however affected some if not all of these activities. The closure of all schools in Ghana due to the pandemic has affected some zonal sporting activities at the Basic school level. Also, the all-awaited ASHBA 2020 for colleges in the Ashanti and Bono-Ahafo sector which was to be held at Offinso college of education, Kumasi has to be suspended because of this pandemic.
However, the impact of Covid-19 on our education system is very alarming and will thus need the interventions of stakeholders. As the saying goes, “United we stand, divided we fall”, education which is one of the keys to success in life cannot be delivered holistically by the government or an individual single-handedly. In this corona times, education should be a collective responsibility, hence the continuous call to stakeholders to play their roles meaningfully for the country’s economic development and emancipation of the nation through education of her populace. Parents as stakeholders to Ghana’s education system can use this period of Covid-19 pandemic to plant in their children who are now living at home with them, the capacity to learn, develop right attitudes, values and character in order for them to appreciate the world around them as the Good Book of Life will put it, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it (Proverbs 22:6, NIV)”. Parents can thus monitor the social and behavioural development of their children especially for special educational needs.
Also, the teacher as a key stakeholder to education should not use this corona times as a period for sleeping or engaging in personal businesses but rather should do more research into this pandemic in order to formulate various ways we can deal with it. Teachers can visit them on regular basis at their homes while ensuring that all protocols against this pandemic are well observed especially those at the rural and deprived areas with no access to electricity and proper network connectivity as well. Teachers with the help of school administrators can provide such pupils with reading materials which would be understandable without a teacher’s guidance.
The stakeholders at the community level such as the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), School Management Committee (SMC), Assemblymen and women, Unit Committee members and the like should also play their roles in this corona times effectively. They can engage pupils at home to take active part in the online learning, television broadcast teaching and the effective and proper use of the internet and social media to facilitate learning even at this time of Covid-19 pandemic and the days ahead.
In a nutshell and the way forward as a nation is that, government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), stakeholders and all individuals concerned with our education system should rise in the fight against this Covid-19 pandemic. We should support the education system with the necessary resources and facilities such as adequate reading materials for all students, technological tools to strengthen online teaching and learning process, expansion of school infrastructure so that in times like Covid-19 pandemic, social distancing could be practiced without necessarily closing down of schools. Our telecommunication system should be improved so that in such misfortunes as this pandemic, the education system can still provide every child and young person with quality education because education does not only help one to earn a living, but also develop a nation full of skillful, resourced, well-informed and morally sound people who could build a just and prosperous society in such unforeseen times and for a living as well.
In conclusion, education they say, is the backbone of every nation. To me, the impact of Covid-19 on Ghana’s education system which includes closure of schools, online teaching and learning and its pregnant challenges, teachers finding it difficult to assess their learners learning competencies and suspension of some vital co-curricular activities, is very alarming to us as a nation. I therefore call on government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), stakeholders and all individuals as good citizens of mother Ghana to put away politics, ethnocentrism, blames, and hatred in this corona times and let us all fight this global enemy from our education system and also to put back our Ghana to its feet. For indeed, together we shall overcome it.
BANNEA KOFI SOMANE,
ST. JOSEHP’S COLLEGE OF EDUCATION,