Thursday, 13 August

SHS reopening: “I’m not risking lives of students” – Akufo-Addo

President Nana Akufo-Addo

President Nana Akufo-Addo has said he has no intention of risking the lives of Ghanaian students by reopening senior high schools for final-year students to go back to sit their final exams.

“I take this opportunity to assure all parents and guardians that the government is determined to protect the lives of the 800,000 students, teachers and non-teaching staff, who will be returning to school from tomorrow [Monday, 22 June 2020]”, the President said in his 12th national address to the nation on the COVID-19 pandemic, adding: “I will be the last person to put the lives of the ‘Akufo-Addo graduates’ at risk”.

“It bears repeating that they must all adhere strictly to enhanced personal hygiene and social distancing protocols, regularly wash their hands with soap under running water, refrain from shaking hands, and wear masks to protect themselves and others. These rules apply to all of us”.

From Monday, the next batch of students, who will be going back to school, are final-year senior high school students (SHS 3), and second-year Gold-Track students.

On Thursday, the President said: “I held consultations with members of both the Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS), and the Association of Principals of Technical Institutes (APTI), to agree on the modalities for the return of the students”, adding: “Despite the short notice for the meeting, I was happy to see the impressive turnout of their executives from all parts of the country, and I am grateful for the wholehearted co-operation they pledged to the government”.  

“Like their seniors at the University, SHS 3 students will be in school for a total of six (6) weeks, before sitting for the WASSCE exams over a period of two (2) weeks. SHS 2 Gold-Track students, who are returning to complete their first semester like their Green Track colleagues have done, will be in school for six (6) weeks, before going on vacation”, he said.

According to him, all 1,167 Senior High Schools in the country have been fumigated and disinfected.

“Each student, teaching and non-teaching staff, invigilator and school administrator, numbering some eight hundred thousand (800,000), will be provided with three (3) pieces of reusable face masks, i.e. two (2) being provided tomorrow, and the third within a fortnight. Nonetheless, I encourage parents to provide their wards and children with at least one (1) face covering on their way to school. A total of eighteen thousand (18,000) Veronica Buckets, eight hundred thousand (800,000) pieces of two hundred millilitre sanitisers, thirty-six thousand (36,000) rolls of tissue paper, thirty-six thousand (36,000) gallons of liquid soap, and seven thousand, two hundred (7,200) thermometer guns have been distributed”, the President noted.

Aso, he said a maximum of twenty-five students will be permitted in each class.

“All day students in schools with boarding houses will be resident in these boarding houses, while day students, in schools without boarding facilities, will commute from home, and will be required to adhere to enhanced hygiene protocols; eating in dining halls will be in appropriate numbers; and no visitors to the schools will be allowed”.

“There will be no mass gatherings and no sporting activities. Religious activities, under the new protocols, will be permitted. Social distancing and the wearing of face masks are obligatory in our schools”, he noted.

The President added that one dormitory block in each senior high school is to be used as an isolation centre in the event of a student falling sick.

“Again, each SHS has been mapped to a health facility, and care will be provided to the sick by nurses assigned to these schools”.

“Through the National Food and Buffer Stock Company, enough food supplies have been distributed to all schools. Government is also making available three hundred and fifty (350) buses and eight hundred and forty (840) pickup vehicles to senior high schools that did not receive vehicles in 2016. For the first time in our nation’s history, the government will absorb the WASSCE examination fees of the three hundred and thirteen thousand, eight hundred and thirty-seven (313,837) SHS 3 students who will sit for the exam. GHS75.4 million will be spent on this”.    

“These SHS 3 students, also referred to by some as the ‘Akufo-Addo graduates’, are the first group of beneficiaries of Government’s Free Senior High School policy to sit the WASSCE exams. 1.2 million children, the highest such enrolment in our nation’s history, because of this policy, are currently in senior high schools. Let us pause for a moment to consider what would have happened to the four hundred thousand (400,000) more students, who have entered Senior High School between 2017 and 2019, without this policy in place”. 

“We introduced Free SHS because history, and the experiences of developed nations have shown that the most efficient way to empower the population, and, thereby, guarantee the future of the nation, is by investing in education and skills training of the youth. This is because it is the people of Ghana, Ghanaians like you and I, and especially the youth of today, who are going to build Ghana. Without an educated populace, it will be difficult to transition from the status of a developing to a developed nation. Summing it up, that most noble Ghanaian, James Kwegyir Aggrey, said, a hundred years ago, and I quote, “I want all my people, my countrywomen and men to be educated …, and, thus, render Africa indispensable in intellectual, spiritual and commercial products of the world.”