As schools across Ghana reopened for in-person learning early this year, the safety of pupils in the classroom became a major concern for parents and teachers. Personal hygiene, an essential health protocol for breaking the transmission of COVID-19, was a challenge for some schools in underserved communities as they lacked handwashing facilities and access to running water.
Akropong Methodist Basic School was one of the schools without enough handwashing stations to meet needs of the student body. Headteacher Dr. Mary Ahwireng feared the school could become a hotspot for the spread of coronavirus. However, through the Safe School Project, Newmont Ghana and United Way Ghana provided critical supplies to allay those fears.
“Through the Safe School Project’s timely intervention, our students are able to wash their hands every morning before entering class and throughout the day while in school. With mask-wearing and reduced interpersonal contact, we have resumed learning and are catching up on the topics we couldn’t cover because of the lockdown,” Dr. Ahwireng said.
With funding from Newmont Ghana, the Akropong Methodist Basic School and 45 other targetted schools received additional Veronica handwashing buckets, boxes of hand soap and sanitisers to ensure personal hygiene and minimise spread of the disease in schools. This enabled beneficiary schools in the Greater Accra, Central, Ashanti and Eastern Regions to reopen safely, with increased confidence in school health interventions and boosted attendance.
Acting Executive Director of United Way Ghana, Janet Butler, said the Safe School Project has helped reduce serious concerns about the ability of schools to carry out COVID-19 prevention protocols, including handwashing.
“We realised that some schools were struggling to meet the safety standards, as many schools in the country suffer from a lack of access to facilities related to water, sanitation and hygiene,” Ms. Butler said. “This intervention will address that problem and help schools to recover from a year of lost learning time due to the shutdown of schools at the height of the pandemic.”
For Newmont’s Vice President for Sustainability and External Relations, Adiki Ayitevie, the donation supports the pupils’ health and safety and eases the financial burden of the pandemic on schools, especially those disproportionately affected.
“In the past year, the pandemic has affected students in marginalised communities the most because of existing inequalities,” Ms. Ayitevie said. “In line with Newmont’s purpose of creating value and improving lives – and in keeping with our Safety value, our goal is to support underserved schools in creating a safe learning environment to help shape a better future for our children.”
Over the past few months, the Safe School Project has led to the installation of over 500 handwashing facilities and distribution of over 100 boxes of handwashing soap and sanitisers to beneficiary schools. The facilities and supplies – worth around US$10,000 – are expected to serve over 24,000 pupils and teachers nationwide.