GES urged to undertake comprehensive audit of health facilities in schools


By Ernest Bako WUBONTO

The death of two boarding students in the month of February 2024 at second cycle schools has ignited discussions about the status of emergency or first aid healthcare needs of students.

With most of these cases emanating from the lack of quality healthcare facilities and effective systems for managing health cases in Senior High Schools, civil society organisations (CSOs), including the Africa Education Watch (Eduwatch), have called on the Ghana Education Service (GES) to undertake a comprehensive audit, and liaise with the Ghana Health Service (GHS) to address possible shortfalls.

The death of a student of Kalpohin Senior High School in Sagnarigu District of  the Northern Region, on 20th February, 2024, was the second within a two-week interval after a female student at Aburi Girls’ Senior High School also lost her life due to lack of medical attention. This brings to at least four more of such cases widely reported since 2017.

Mostly, fellow student eye witnesses to the incidents and sources close to the occurrences mention that the students were sick, authorities refused to give an exeat to go home for treatment and kept them in school until situation gets worse.

Sadly, the response of the school authorities is usually to deny complicity, rather than initiate meaningful reforms of the health management systems at the SHS level.

However, the CSOs stressed that a rapid diagnosis of these events points to one thing – the lack of explicit guidelines on health case management in schools. This gap leaves school authorities to act with discretion in determining whether a sick student should be treated in school and discharged, sent home for treatment, taken to hospital by school authorities for treatment or be handed to their parents for treatment in a hospital.

With this backdrop, the Eduwatch underscored the need for GES to collaborate with the Ghana Health Service to find a lasting solution. It highlighted that by liaising with the GHS, the GES would be able to develop and implement a more pragmatic case management protocol for handling sick students in second cycle schools.

This must also include a procedure to monitor the implementation of the protocols and mainstream same into indicators for school supervision and the key performance indicators (KPIs) of school heads.

The partnership can also ensure sick bays have the required drugs, competent personnel and transport facilities to deliver quality healthcare to students and staff on campuses.

The CSOs hold strongly that the state of sick bays in some of the high schools must be concerning to stakeholders, with challenges ranging from personnel and facilities to medicines. There are many schools where sick bays run cash and carry on medicines, in spite of students having NHIS cards.

Parent associations and old students associations must be interested in the state and functioning of health facilities in these schools, while providing support.

Ghana is the only country operating a public boarding secondary education system, with over one million students in boarding houses. The schools have grown in population from institutions of learning to full communities, with some schools having about 6,000 students and staff on campus. It is, therefore, important to prioritise the delivery of primary healthcare in our schools and strengthen the referral systems.

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