COVID-19 deals education sector, citizenry heavy blow

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…with cancellation of Independence Day celebrations

The COVID-19 pandemic has once again dealt a heavy blow to the nation as it denies the people of Ghana their ability to celebrate the nation’s Independence Day in usual style of pomp and pageantry – for the first time since 1957 when it gained independence from former colonial master, Great Britain.

Independence Day celebrations over the years have been characterised with display of great Ghanaian cultural displays, historical accounts, educative programmes, economic boom and merrymaking. It is also a period that brings back a sense of nationalism, patriotism and memories of our forefathers who toiled to make independence a possibility.

A very significant and colorful twist to this august occasion is the crucial role the education sector plays in commemorating this most vital day in the history of Ghana, thus the education sector is the heart of the celebration. The Black Star Square and other jubilee parks around the regions are always sites to behold on Ghana’s Independence Day, as pupils and students celebrate Ghana’s Independence Day with parades & march-pasts.

Children feel excited to witness and be part of such a moment. They pin red, gold and green-coloured flags to uniforms, watching the flag being hoisted and singing the national anthem. To be a part of Independence Day celebrations at school is a treasured memory for many, as they feel involved in the creation of today’s history.

Also, directorates and schools – both public and private, play their rightful roles in this celebration with preparations starting from mid-February all the way to D-Day – when the ground is set for all to pay homage to mother Ghana.

But this time around, with such celebrations cancelled by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, due to safety reasons necessitated by COVID-19, the education sector has been sullen. Students feel disappointed and saddened not to enjoy their usual drills and euphoria associated with the celebration.

With preparations sidelined this year, facilities for the celebration that usually receive some renovations and facelifts have been dejected. Construction sector workers who could usually cash-in on this have been dealt a heavy blow.

Schools usually have a whole budget for the celebration, as all schools aim to be declared as one of the best performers on the day. New uniforms are provided to participating students, shoes and socks among other complementary wear are provided for students to be more presentable and unique on the occasion.

Tailors or fashion designers, market women, fabric manufacturers, leather makers and shoe producers find this as an opportunity to cash-in – but are all affected this year as COVID-19 has showed no mercy.

Spectators fill all centres designated for the celebration nationwide on March 6, to cheer up the students as they parade and share in the theme and message of patriotism for the year. All these people, one way or another, buy drinking water, drinks, food and other items from hawkers and sellers around and stimulate local economic growth from a one-day event.

Wider, national impact

The impact of COVID-19 on the education sector has been huge: forcing closure of schools for over a year, pushing academic activities online, impact on skills development of students, worsening financial crises of students and their parents among others.

Now that the sector better-understands the pandemic and its impacts, the roll-out of programmes must include higher demands for teaching and learning materials, especially to people in remote areas.

Education and economic development are always intertwined, hence an impact on one overlaps the other; and this is clear with regard to the cancellation of this year’s celebration.

For instance: Independence Days have always been a chance to give back to the nation, and some corporate organisations, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), churches and other associations embark on charitable projects to support national projects – less privileged in society among others, but most of these organisations are now focused on health and safety.

Again, during Independence Day celebrations, there is always an economic boom as the nation records a lot of tourists both internal and external. The externals bring in a lot money to spend on our cultural regalia, tourist sites, local cuisine, fashion and creative arts; and the aviation sector also benefits, not forgetting the tax components which go to government.

Historical Setback

It is definitely going to be recorded in the history books of the country that once upon a time in 2021, Independence Day celebrations were suspended due to a global pandemic. But this should not deny students who usually learn about their history and culture during times like this. Educative programming on radio and television for the day should cater to students as well.

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