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COVID-19: Use continuous assessment to promote JHS, SHS final-year students – Ablakwa to gov’t

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The government could have used the continuous assessment of all final-year junior high school (JHS) and senior high school (SHS) students for their progression into the next level instead of reopening schools in this era of the COVID-19 crisis, Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa has said.

This follows President Nana Akufo-Addo’s relaxation of the COVD-19 restrictions.

Announcing the easing of the restrictions on Sunday, 31 May 2020, President Akufo-Addo said: “From Monday, 15 June 2020, the decision has been taken, after engagement with the Teacher Unions, whose co-operation I salute, to re-open schools and universities to allow for final-year junior high, senior high and university students to resume classes ahead of the conduct of their respective exit examinations.

“Indeed, final-year university students are to report to their universities on 15th June; final-year senior high school (SHS 3) students, together with SHS 2 Gold Track students, on 22nd June; and final-year junior high school (JHS 3) students on 29th June. JHS 3 classes will comprise a maximum of thirty (30) students; SHS classes a maximum of twenty-five (25) students; and University lectures will take place with half the class sizes”.

“All final-year students of educational and training institutions, which are being managed by Ministries other than the Education Ministry, are to return to school on 15th June to complete their exit examinations”.

However, in a write-up by the North Tongu MP, he noted that: “The continuous assessment of final-year students in JHS and SHS could have been deemed adequate for their progression to the next level. Alternatively, in addition to the continuous assessment, a one-off entrance exam could have been considered at the point of entry into SHS and tertiary institutions in August/September at the beginning of the 2020/2021 academic year in order to avoid many risky weeks in school.”

Mr Ablakwa continued: “Considering that the 2019/2020 academic year had only two weeks to run its course when schools were closed, there wouldn’t have been a significant loss of contact hours if the above suggestions were implemented.”

Also, according to the legislator: “Tertiary institutions including universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and nursing training institutes should all have been required to complete their online studies”, as he is reliably informed that most had completed it and “made to sit for online examinations or submit term papers, theses or project works as many tertiary institutions all over the world have considered; this would have averted the risk of tertiary students congregating for some six long weeks.”

He further questioned the directive by Education Minister Dr Mathew Opoku Prempeh that all final-year day students join their colleagues to become boarders in their respective schools, adding: “The Minister appears to forget that by my checks, there are as many as 145 senior high schools in Ghana which are strictly day schools and, so, do not have the luxury of boarding facilities. How do these students become boarders in such schools without dormitories, dining halls and bathrooms?”

“Even with the 576 senior high schools with boarding facilities, we do know the configuration of particularly residential facilities are very communal. There are only a few bathrooms for many students to share. The lack of exclusive spaces would put many students at risk if one student is COVID-19 positive. Without any structural design changes or reconfiguration of boarding facilities which were not built with highly contagious diseases such as the novel coronavirus in mind, we all ought to be extremely cautious”, Mr Ablakwa warned.

He added: “The other matter that may have been overlooked is the financial burden on parents and guardians of day students. Data already reveal that most day students who currently make up 37% of students at the second-cycle level belong to vulnerable households and, often, that is the reason they opt to be day students. How do we expect this category to comfortably purchase the long list of items on the prospectus needed for boarding within this short timeframe and within the current context of an excruciating economic pandemic?”