Social system too weak to keep children until 2021 – CRI

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Photo: A class of school children. Credit: Graphic Online

… calls for the immediate opening of schools

Executive Director of Child Rights International (CRI), Bright Appiah, has expressed concern over the closure of schools, indicating that Ghana’s social system is too weak to entrust children in it until 2021.

He said there would be so many repercussions for school children to stay home and stressed that keeping children at home for long would do more harm than allowing them to resume school.

In that regard, Mr Appiah, in a statement, called for the immediate reopening of schools to cover the basic level. According to the organisation, allowing second-year students in both Junior and Senior High Schools to resume classes while the rest of the school children stay at home would be detrimental to children’s growth.

Explaining the CRI’s reason, Mr. Appiah said the corporate environment in Ghana had not adjusted its timelines to allow families to spend more time with their children, adding that the television and media stations “do not have adequate educational programmes to aid children’s academic growth.”

“In view of that children still have access to content that is meant for adults. Additionally, no attempt has been made to regulate the internet space to make it safe and conducive for children to watch educational materials at home. The space is too loose that it has the potential of causing more harm to children than to be in school,” Mr Appiah said.

Corona scare overblown

Per CRI’s statement, if the decision to keep schools closed is born out of the fear of a possible outbreak of the coronavirus among the children, then the government has no worries to reopen schools because children’s rate of transfer is the lowest.

The statement said research has shown that the behavior of COVID-19 transfer among children is the lowest recorded since the outbreak, adding that among children who would contract the virus, less than 1% would show severe symptoms.

“In Ghana, more than 500 children contracted the virus when schools reopened for SHS and JHS to sit for their final exams. Out of that only 30 showed mild symptoms and only 7 or less showed severed symptoms and no students died as a result of COVID-19.

The figures above only occurred at the SHS level where over 270,000 were allowed to go back to schools. So far no records available show that student at JHS contracted the virus and transmitted it to the adult population who are the vulnerable groups,” CRI explained.

The statement said the government’s intention to let schools remain closed as a way to manage coronavirus outbreak among the children has been overblown. CRI believed that keeping schools closed because of the fear of students contracting the virus should they resumed full academic activities should never be a major bother or concern to the state or parent.

Per CRI’s statement, the government could have gone ahead to reopen schools by enhancing the nutritional value of students through the food they consume on its “one hot meal a day,” programme.

“A nutritionist could have been engaged in such a way that the food given to school children would have adequate nutrition to boost the immune system of the children,” it added.

Additionally, CRI recommended the redesigning of the school environment in such a way that everywhere students go, the social environment would speak to them about the need to adhere to COVID-19 protocols. ” This can be done in a way where COVID-19 educational materials would be placed on notice boards, canteens, hallway and other places where school children encounter each other,” the statement said.

In large classes, CRI said school children could be made to break into group so while “one group is learning the other group will be on the field.”

Dangers in shutdown

Outlining some of the dangers in keeping schools closed, CRI mentioned child labour, child abuse, especially, in rural communities could spark as a result of children staying at home.

The organisation said efforts had been made by stakeholders to help combat the issue of child labour, indicating that a research conducted in over 1200 communities revealed a 38 per cent rise in child labour. “Imagine in a case where these children are made to stay at home for the rest of the year, what would happen,” CRI asked.

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