Ghana’s education system: Impact of COVID-19 on quality education

Author: Yahaya Sumara Sulley

Department of Forensic Sciences, Faculty of Biosciences, University for Development Studies, Tamale – Ghana

Ghana’s education system has evolved through many stages, initially from informal education based on apprenticeship to formal education which has three main levels: basic (kindergarten to Junior High School (JHS)), secondary (Senior High School (SHS)) and tertiary education (universities, technical universities/polytechnics, and colleges).

The institution welcomes development partners and private stakeholders intending to facilitate learning in the country hence there have been collaborations with World Bank, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, and many others to develop the education system in Ghana.

Vocational apprenticeships, Sporting academies, “Madarasat”, and humanitarian and community development projects, such as School for Life, also provide unique forms of education that seek to help solve global challenges.

As fear and panic keep brewing, it is an individual responsibility not to become part of the daily statistics. According to the Ministry of Health’s daily updates, as of 29th May 2020, Ghana faces a total COVID-19 case count of over 7881.

There are 15 people currently living under severe conditions and 5 under critical conditions. About 2841 recoveries have been made while 36 people have lost their lives as a result of COVID-19.

The negative impact of the pandemic and government lockdown restrictions on the education system is very obvious. The government and education institutions suspended face-to-face learning activities in March 2020.

Across the various levels of education, pupils and students from poor homes are struggling to continue their education due to expensive internet access and poor supervision of their learning.

Quality Education #WhatAboutUs? Campaign | Photo Credits: Y S Sulley
#WhatAboutUs? Campaign | Photo Credits: Y S Sulley

A major challenge for final-year students in JHS and SHS is how to continue their preparation for their final exams, BECE and WASSCE.

The pandemic has exposed the stark inequality in the educational system, revealing the limited infrastructure and poor educational resources in some regions of the country. For example, SHSs in the northern part of Ghana have been experiencing delays in feeding grants, inadequate teaching and learning infrastructure, poor learning support and many others.

The effect of these challenges is a hiatus in the effective supervision and monitoring of students’ academic welfare during the pandemic. Even though some schools in the northern regions and Volta North are benefitting from the home-schooling initiatives established as a result of partnerships with NGOs such as Lead for Ghana, the initiatives are limited to a fraction of the student population.

At the tertiary education level, most final-year students have halted their project works, and most postgraduate students have been denied access to certificates and transcripts. Although most institutions have introduced virtual learning, the progress of learning by continuing students has been hindered by unstable and faulty eLearning platforms.

So far, the Ministry of Education has launched a Ghana Learning TV for students at the basic and secondary levels. A radio learning platform has also been planned to complement the TV initiative. As mentioned earlier, university authorities have also switched to eLearning through online platforms such as Zoom, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram Live, YouTube, and many others to facilitate learning at the tertiary level.

Globally, UNESCO is promoting continuity of education for all, especially the most vulnerable through remote learning. This is in line with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 which seeks to ensure the reduction in inequalities, gender disparity, poverty, poor health standards, and intolerance through inclusive and quality education for all to achieve lifelong learning opportunities.

However, in Ghana, it appears only students living in more endowed locations and wealthier homes are benefitting from government interventions that are supposed to be for all thereby thwarting sustainable education in general.

Thousands of students living in rural communities are missing out on the most effective alternative (virtual learning) to classroom learning as a result of the unavailability of electricity, poor internet connectivity, media coverage, poverty, disabilities, inability to read, and many other genuine reasons.

Government intervention to support education services with virtual learning alternatives is commendable however it is not accessible to many in the country.

With UNESCO’s dream and SDG 4 seeking to capitalize on all forms of education to respond to global challenges, the existing government virtual learning interventions should be developed to promote inclusiveness and bridge the inequality gaps.

Comprehensive virtual learning support will ensure that the quality of all forms of education is protected, including sports academies, vocational apprenticeship, adult education, local Islamic theological studies (Makaranta) and community development and humanitarian outreach programs focused on educating people about agriculture, health, and other socioeconomic issues.

Lastly, since schools are forms of social gathering, reopening them too soon may increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission. It is therefore imperative that governments and institutions invest and improve upon their virtual learning interventions to promote quality education and protect lives. Further, final years who may be required to go back to school should be provided with adequate materials to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection.

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