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What COVID-19 reveals about educational inequality in Ghana

What COVID-19 reveals about educational inequality in Ghana

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed stark inequalities in Ghana’s educational system. 

Kwabena Opoku-Agyemang, a lecturer at the University of Ghana, is looking for new ways to carry on teaching his students.

He has no other choice. Ever since Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo ordered last month the indefinite closure of all schools to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, many of the country’s higher educational institutions began exploring options in online learning.

“I plan to use WhatsApp and Zoom to make the classes more interactive,” said Opoku-Agyemang, who teaches literature courses at the Accra-based university’s Department of English. “I will also be having guest artists and guest lecturers join in. The artists will use Instagram Live, while the guest lecturers will probably use Zoom.”

Yet, it won’t be easy. “Stable electricity – we had an extended power cut yesterday; reliable internet; student engagement,” said Opoku-Agyemang, listing some of the challenges threatening the success of the move online.

Stark inequalities

Ghana confirmed its first case of coronavirus on March 12 and has since reported a total of 287 infections and five deaths. In a bid to keep the rapidly spreading virus at bay, the government has announced a series of sweeping measures including banning mass gatherings and shutting down all borders and schools.

But the coronavirus pandemic has revealed the stark regional, social and economic inequalities in Ghana’s educational system.

Closing schools indefinitely has long been the reality for many high school students in northern Ghana, where educational facilities operate with limited infrastructure compared to those in the more affluent south. This has often manifested in high schools’ inability to resume classes on time due to a shortage of teachers, delays in feeding grants and a lack of building facilities which, on occasions, have resulted in children having to study under trees.

Beyond regional disparities, social class has also been a determining factor in the quality of education. Many wealthier Ghanaians send their children to private schools (primary and junior high) given that public schools are often resource poor.

Homeschooling as an alternative

Since the shutdown of schools on March 16, some parents have opted for homeschooling to mitigate the effect on their children’s education. But many are quickly realising that this is not as easy as they anticipated, despite receiving support from schools to facilitate homeschooling

“There are many distractions. Some days she wants to watch TV only,” said Nora Akemson Avicor, an Accra-based parent of a four-year-old girl based in Accra. “Some days I am super busy with the business and we don’t even get time to do anything at all.”

While parents who have formal education can actively manage their children’s learning via homeschooling, this is not an option for those who are not formally educated, especially in the country’s north.

“The shutdown will affect the pupils drastically. Many children will not have the chance to learn while at home,” said a basic school educator in Tamale, northern Ghana. “They think they are on holiday. Even in the community, you see children roaming about and it looks like they don’t even know that they are supposed to stay at home.”

An educator at a junior high school in the Sagnarigu municipality added: “Many of the children only learn at school, they don’t study at home. Since we have been home, if you ask many of the students, they will tell you that they haven’t opened a book. And these are students preparing to write the BECE.”

BECE, or Basic Education Certificate Examination, is the standardised exam junior high school students have to take to get into senior high schools, while WASSCE, or West African Senior School Certificate Examination, is the exam taken by senior high school students to get into universities and colleges. Although the WASSCE has been suspended indefinitely, the Ghana Education Service is currently “in serious discussions” with the West African Examinations Council about the conduct of the BECE.

To address the situation, the Ministry of Education on April 3 launched TV learning for senior high school students. State broadcaster GBC will also begin airing TV lessons for primary and junior high schools on April 13, and there are plans to produce similar content for radio learning.

Struggles in higher education

At the same time, higher educational institutions have begun training lecturers in online instruction as they actively turn to web-based alternatives.

So far, the University of Ghana has worked with Vodafone to make SIM cards available to students to enable them to access the college’s digital learning platform, Sakai.

But according to a student of the university, the cards’ 5 gigabytes of monthly internet data are hardly enough to cover their needs. Students have been told they will still be able to use their SIM cards to access learning platforms even after they have run out of data, but some of them are not confident that this will happen until they actually witness it.

Although some universities are using built-in, already existing learning platforms such as Sakai to facilitate learning, others have to turn to services such as Google Classroom, WhatsApp, YouTube and Zoom.
In one class at the University for Development Studies in Nyankpala, class sessions are currently being run on WhatsApp.

“The WhatsApp is purposely for discussions pertaining to the course – and it’s not all that effective,” Abdul, a student, said. “And not everyone is on the platform. Some don’t have smartphones and others can’t afford a bundle [internet data]. So they usually tell you some areas to learn on your own and if you have any problems you can raise it in the class group chat and then we can discuss it.”

At the same time, many students worry about the effectiveness and feasibility of online pedagogy since lecturers who are not technologically literate may find it difficult to manage online teaching.

“I only have confidence in two of my lecturers being able to teach online,” said Titi, a student at the University of Ghana. “The rest, God will provide.”

A lecturer at the University for Development Studies, Eliasu Mumuni, said he expected technical issues, “especially with the grownups”.

“It will take some time to orient people to it,” he added. “The students are feeling like it’s time to rest but we are here pushing them to learn in an environment that is not conducive.”

Digital divide and alternatives

Despite recent efforts by the Ghana Education Service and various higher educational institutions to move pedagogy online, there is a wide digital divide that will make the goal of online learning difficult to achieve in a country where less than half of the population is believed to have mobile phone internet access.

On March 30, the Ghana Education Service announced that it had developed “an online study platform” for all senior high schools and that plans were in place to develop and make available a learning platform for basic schools. People who have attempted to use the platform for senior high school students have already began reporting challenges in accessing and using it.

Once fully operational, these platforms will only be available to those who have access to internet data, smartphones, tablets and computers, which leaves out a large number of students who lack access to these technologies. Even with students with them, high costs of internet data can mitigate their access to learning.

As a result, many students at the higher educational level who have little to no access to digital tools will find themselves stuck at the periphery of the educational system while their more privileged colleagues continue to learn.

Looking ahead, it is important to consider how the most marginalised will be affected by moving education online.

Telecommunications companies should also step up collaboration with higher educational institutions to facilitate access to free unlimited data to students to participate in digital learning.

Parents should explore ways to teach their children by drawing on Ghana’s indigenous knowledge systems  This type of pedagogy can take the form of storytelling in indigenous languages; teaching children folksongs; helping children improve their indigenous language proficiency; teaching children about indigenous gastronomy and nutrition; sharing family, ancestral, ethnic and national oral histories among others.



Closing SHSs will be disastrous — GES

Closing SHSs will be disastrous — GES

The Director-General of the Ghana Education Service (GES), Prof. Kwasi Opoku-Amankwa, has said it will be disastrous for the government to close down senior high schools (SHSs) and send students back home for fear that they will contract the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Speaking at a press briefing organised by the Ministry of Information to provide an update on the country’s COVID-19 case management situation in Accra yesterday, Prof. Opoku-Amankwa said closing down schools presently was not the right option for the government to consider. 

There have been calls by some parents and political parties for the government to shut down schools in the face of the spread of the virus in schools.

Answering a question on the danger of keeping students in school, the GES boss said: “We believe that the best option is to keep them [students] in school because if we decide to let them go into the bigger society, then we rather have to close down the entire country because if you have a thousand students going into different homes and they are infected, we are not sure of what is going to happen to the larger community." 

 "We are talking about 550,000 students; that is, the Gold Track students plus SHS final-year students, so if we decide to let them all go, I think we will be causing a big disaster to ourselves," he added.

Special arrangement

He explained that the government had put in place measures, including the deployment of the needed resources and logistics, including personal protective equipment (PPE), such as nose masks and hand sanitiser, to ensure the safety of students in the various institutions.

He said most of the students who had been infected by the virus and were currently in isolation were asymptomatic and, therefore, able to engage in studies.

“Originally, the final-year SHS students had two weeks to start their WASSCE, but the President, in his wisdom, said because they had been home for a long time, they should be given more time for revision,” he said.

Prof. Opoku-Amankwa assured parents that students who were unable to write the examination due to poor health would be given the opportunity to register for the same examination at another period at a cost to the government.

“If, for any reason at all, the child is writing the exams and is ill, what the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) does is that it has something called the clemency rule that will be used, so that if you have written English One and cannot write the second paper, it will use the results of the first paper and other factors to award you marks for the second paper,” he explained.

He added that because of all those arrangements, it was not prudent to close down schools under the current circumstances. 

Case count

The country’s positive COVID-19 cases as of yesterday stood at 25,252, according to the Director of Public Health at the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Badu Sarkodie.

Although the number of positive cases had increased, Dr Sarkodie said the number of active cases had significantly reduced over the last few days.

He said there were 3,716 active cases, while figures for recovered and discharged people had risen to 21,391, with 139 deaths.

The new cases were confirmed from 26 districts in six regions.

Govt intervention

The Minister of Information, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, who answered a question on the government’s strategy to ensure that the rate of infections among the public was reduced, said although the government was determined to protect citizens from getting infected by the virus, the citizens must also take steps to protect themselves.

He said all the safety protocols that had been adopted by the government could not translate into preventing the spread of the virus if citizens failed to comply and act accordingly. 

Parents storm Accra Girls’

Meanwhile, for the second time in two weeks, some frustrated parents went to the Accra Girls’ SHS) yesterday, demanding that the school authorities should allow them to send their children home, reports Jennifer Kwasin

It followed a joint statement by the GHS and the GES late Monday that 55 people in the school had tested positive for the COVID-19.

The statement said: "Accra Girls’ SHS has recorded most cases from the first report to date. As of 13th July, 2020, a total of 314 people (students and staff) from the school had been tested. Out of these, 55 have been confirmed positive for COVID-19, while 259 people tested negative."

 It added that all the infected people had been segregated from other students, while their contacts had been identified and tested.


When the Daily Graphic visited the school yesterday morning, a number of parents would not take anything except demand their children.

Dissatisfied with unfolding events, the parents said if the authorities had tested the students and some had come out negative, they should release them, so that their parents send them home to prevent further spread of the virus among the students..

Contrary to what the GES and the GHS were saying, the parents were of the view that the students were not safe because the school had become a hot spot for the virus and unsafe for living.

Parents reiterated the fact that the school authorities were not communicating with them (parents).

Ms Millicent Manu, a parent, said: “We are told by our children that classroom work is no longer in active session, so what are the children still doing in school when the school is no longer safe for them, health wise?”

“If we continue keeping them in school, the spread will increase and the unfortunate may happen to our children,” she added.


Source: Emmanuel Bonney

Shut Down Schools to Avert COVID-19 Spread - NCPTAs

The National Council of Parent-Teacher Associations (NCPTAs) has called on government to as a matter of urgency send home all students and shutdown schools to avert further spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The association also want the government to postpone examinations of the final year SHS until further notice.

This was contained in a statement issued and signed by the National President of NCPTAs, Alexander Yaw Danso and copied to the Ghanaian Times yesterday.

According to them, the current circumstances following the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in some Senior High Schools (SHS) did not make it conducive for the students to stay in schools.

"In the current circumstances, the children are psychologically unstable and would therefore, not be of sound mind to write the WASSCE and BECE examinations and come out successfully," he stated.

"We, therefore, suggest that these examinations be postponed till the situation is brought under control," The statement added.

The association further stated that, close observation done indicates that, not all SHS have received the Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) they were promised.

These according to them among other things put the lives of the children into danger hence the need for the government to immediately shutdown all schools.

It, therefore, urged parents to isolate their wards for the 14-day period after they had returned home

"In the event of students sent home, parents are advised to endeavour to isolate and test their children for the 14-day period before integrating them into the larger family for the sake of everybody's safety," the statement added.


GNAT donates life jackets to teachers in Island communities


The Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) on Monday, donated 35 life jackets valued at GH¢4,000, to basic school teachers in seven island communities in the Keta municipality.

The beneficiary teachers commute daily from their places of residence elsewhere in the municipality to schools in Bomigo, Genui, Fuveme, Hatorgodo, Wenyagor, Lawoshime and Agorviwofe.


The jackets were presented by Mr Thomas Mensah, Head of Membership Education Department of GNAT, Accra, to Mr David Kattah, Volta Regional GNAT Chairman, at the river bank at Tunu, prior to a tour of the islands by the GNAT team.

Mr Mensah said that the safety of teachers in the deprived communities were of paramount concern to the association, adding, “It is only when our teachers feel safe at their duty posts that they can deliver quality education.”


Mr Mensah stated that GNAT would provide more life jackets and other necessities to teachers in the area soon, to boost their performance in the classrooms.


Pursuant to that, he said that the association was looking into the possibility of acquiring a modern vessel on the river, for use exclusively by teachers in the area.

Mr Mensah gave the assurance that GNAT would constantly be in touch with basic schools in deprived communities, and attend to their needs in pursuance of the fourth Sustainable Development Goal.

At Bomigo, the Assistant Headmaster of the E.P. Basic School, Mr James Atideku thanked GNAT for the support, saying the gesture was highly touching.


The jackets, he said, would definitely help to boost the morale of the teachers and enhance their output, saying: “We hope GNAT officials will visit us here regularly to identify our challenges at first hand and assist us accordingly.”

The assistant headmaster appealed to GNAT for sports kits to support extra-curricular activities in the school, stressing, “In spite of the deprivation, we do very well during competitions with other schools, so we will surely get to greater heights when we are supported with the kits.”



June 12, 2019

GNAT and Ghana National Commission for UNESCO marks World’s Largest Lesson 2020 edition

GNAT and Ghana National Commission for UNESCO marks World’s Largest Lesson 2020 edition


The Ghana National Commission for UNESCO and Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) marked the 2020 edition of the World’s Largest Lesson with a training workshop for selected teachers in the Greater Accra Metropolis.
The World’s Largest Lesson is observed every year to ensure that every child in the world grows up knowing and caring about the Sustainable Development Goals and is inspired to take action to help achieve them. So far it has reached millions of children in over 100 countries.
The full day workshop comprised activities like orientation on the 17 SDGs and practicals on integrating and adapting the resources and Teaching Learning Materials into lessons.

Speaking at the workshop, Mr Palham Oyiye , Research Officer and National Coordinator on Early Childhood expressed GNAT’s appreciation to the Commission for the collaboration and said he looks forward to more of such in the future.
Participants also spoke of their satisfaction with the programme, adding that they will use the learning and resources from the workshop in their teaching.
Pictures of the event can be found in our gallery.

Visit to find resources and training materials for educators.



GNAT, NAGRAT, CCT Declare Nationwide Strike Over Arrears

GNAT, NAGRAT, CCT Declare Nationwide Strike Over Arrears

The Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) and the Coalition of Concerned Teachers (CCT) have declared a strike. The nationwide industrial action is expected to take effect from Monday, December 9, 2019. According to them, checks have revealed that their arrears have been verified and approved for payment by the Controller and Accountant General's internal audit unit but the monies have not been released yet.

They claimed that the Ghana Education Service blamed the delay in releasing the monies on discrepancies in the verified data.

Speaking to the media, the President of the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), Philippa Larsen said teachers deserved better.


“We are not prepared to see our teachers suffer as a result of somebody’s negligence. Our pleas have fallen on deaf ears and the status quo remains. We cannot continue to tolerate this. Indeed, for how long shall they ignore our members. The teachers – the purveyors of education, don’t expect us to continue to look on. We can’t stand this. In light of this development, the Ghana National Association of Teachers, National Association of Graduate Teachers, Coalition of Concerned Teachers Ghana, do hereby today [Thursday] declare a strike by our members effective Monday 9th December 2019.”


This is not the first time this year that the teacher unions have embarked on such industrial action to press home their demands.

The groups had also bemoaned the inability of the Ghana Education Service (GES) and the Public Services Commission to facilitate their promotions.

According to NAGRAT for instance, the failure of the Public Service Commission to amend their records has led to delays in promotional interviews.

For CCT, they have been demanding that the GES promotes teachers who are due for promotion and upgrade salaries of teachers who are due for the same.

It also called for the reinstatement of their members who were sent away for minor offences and others who are first-time offenders.


Source: citinewsroom