Education Review: COVID-19 shatters optimism of private schools


… as CHOPSS appeals for state support

The advent of COVID-19, which led to the closure of schools as part of measures to contain the spread of the virus has seen private pre-tertiary educational institutions among the worst hit.

Ahead of the new year, members of the Conference of Heads of Private Second-Cycle Schools (CHOPSS), continue to count their loses. After several calls for government support to remain afloat and ensure the future of young students under their care is not jeopardized have yielded little to no results, the residual optimism is ebbing away.

The education sector has been plagued by many challenges but the pandemic has left seen it record some of the highest incidents of human capital flight, layoffs, deterioration of unused infrastructure and increasing penalty on individual and collective outstanding loans.

Limited internet coverage, coupled with poor network service and high cost of data are some of the factors that have impeded remote learning. This has left parents and other stakeholders in the education sector apprehensive over the state of education when a semblance of normalcy returns.

Whereas trade and manufacturing sector have resorted to local production rather than imports due to border closures which have boosted local industries, the same cannot be said of the education sector as the sector is crippled with lack of technology.

Beyond the material and tangible losses recounted, the consequential effect of student preparation for the academic studies, their ability to complete syllabus and an academic calendar thrown out of the window lingers on.

One head teacher argues that the impact is bigger as many parents have lost their jobs and others are earning a fraction of what they used to earn pre-pandemic. This, he noted has resulted in default of school fees payments and will only get worse with the full resumption of schools.

Unfortunately, a year that started on a good note for many in the education sector both public and private schools as new strategies were rolled out, infrastructure projects commissioned, new policies introduced and staff efficiency improved, has completely turned around.

Government support for the education sector was evident from on the onset of the year as the Free Education programme continued sturdily, clearance was given to Ghana Education Service for the recruitment of graduate teachers and ancilliary policies were introduced.

For instance, the Ministry of Education secured a US$150 million World Bank development fund as early as mid-January 2020, for the implementation of Ghana Accountability for Learning Outcomes Project (GALOP), a programme that could benefit private sector schools as well.

The expected outcomes earmarked included improved teaching practices, improved learning outcomes and strengthened data-driven accountability systems for school management and estimated to impact 3.8 million pupils, but COVID-19 has affected this project.

Recall that private second-cycle schools were dealt a heavy hand with the introduction of the Free Senior High School programme as enrolments dropped to a record low.

With hope for support to private schools growing dimmer by the day, and the possibility of all their students returning to school when schools finally reopen unguaranteed, as well as the likelihood that there will be new enrolments, some private school heads are of the opinion that it will take a miracle for private schools to bounce back stronger in early days of 2021.

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