President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has announced a fresh package of interventions that will help make life comfortable and safe for final-year senior high school (SHS) Three students and second-year Gold Track students who are returning to school today.
It includes for the first time, the absorption of the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) fees of the 313,837 SHS Three students amounting to GH¢75.4 million.
In addition, the government is making available 350 buses and 840 pickup vehicles to SHSs that did not receive vehicles in 2016.
In his 12th address to the nation on Ghana’s enhanced response to the COVID-19 pandemic yesterday, the President further indicated that through the National Food and Buffer Stock Company, enough food supplies had been distributed to all schools.
The President added that all 1,167 SHSs across the country had been fumigated and disinfected. “Each student, teaching and non-teaching staff, invigilators and school administrators, numbering some 800,000, will be provided with three pieces of reusable face masks, i.e. two being provided tomorrow, and the third within a fortnight,” he said.
In addition, he said 18,000 Veronica buckets, 800,000 pieces of 200 millilitre sanitisers, 36,000 rolls of tissue paper, 36,000 gallons of liquid soap, and 7,200 thermometer guns had been distributed.
President Akufo-Addo, nonetheless, encouraged parents to provide their children with at least one face covering on their way to school.
Protocols in schools
On the safety protocols, the President said a maximum of 25 students would be permitted in each class.
All day students in schools with boarding houses will be resident in the boarding houses, while day students in schools without boarding facilities would commute from home, and would be required to adhere to enhanced hygiene protocols, he said.
He repeated the directive that eating in dining halls would be in appropriate numbers, while no visitors would be allowed in the schools.
There would be no mass gatherings and sporting activities, but religious activities, under the new protocols, would be permitted, he said.
President Akufo-Addo reiterated that social distancing and the wearing of face masks were obligatory in our schools.
Each school will designate one dormitory block as an isolation centre to cater for students who may fall sick.
“Again, each SHS has been mapped to a health facility, and care will be provided to the sick bay nurses assigned to these schools,” the President stated.
President Akufo-Addo expressed gratitude that the Free SHS policy had put 1.2 million children in school, the highest such enrolment in the country’s history, and without which 400,000 students would not have entered SHS between 2017 and 2019.
“These SHS Three students, also referred to by some as the ‘Akufo-Addo graduates’, are the first group of beneficiaries of government’s Free Senior High School policy to sit the WASSCE exams,” he added.
He said the Free SHS was introduced because the experiences of developed nations had shown that the most efficient way to empower the population, and, thereby, guarantee the future of the nation, was by investing in education and skills training of the youth.
President Akufo-Addo reiterated his assurance to all parents and guardians that the government was determined to protect the lives of the 800,000 students, teachers and non-teaching staff, who would be returning to school from today.
“I will be the last person to put the lives of the ‘Akufo-Addo graduates’ at risk. It bears repeating that they must all adhere strictly to enhanced personal hygiene and social distancing protocols, regularly wash their hands with soap under running water, refrain from shaking hands, and wear masks to protect themselves and others. These rules apply to all of us,” he stated.
President Akufo-Addo also explained why the country had reviewed its protocols with regard to managing the pandemic, stressing that it was informed by the evolving science and data, as well as the recommendations by the scientific and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
He said after three weeks of analysing and studying the updated guidelines of WHO’s clinical management of COVID-19 Interim Guidance, of May 27, 2020, and situating it in the Ghanaian context, the patient discharge and recovery policy had been adopted by Ghana as some countries in the European Union, Singapore, India, Malaysia Hong Kong and in Dubai.
“According to WHO, asymptomatic patients, i.e. those who have tested positive for the virus, but are not exhibiting any symptoms after 14 days, “are not likely to be infectious, and, therefore, are unlikely to be able to transmit the virus to another person”.
Under the reviewed protocol, all patients who after treatment test negative on the first post-treatment test, would be discharged and the sample for the second test would be taken from their homes.
President Akufo-Addo said that explained the numbers of discharged people recorded in the current case count in the country.
As of Saturday, June 20, the case count stood at 14,154 from 270,300 tests conducted. Under the revised policy, 5,925 persons have recovered and have been discharged, bringing to 10,473, the number of people discharged.
Twenty-four persons are severely ill, six persons in critical condition and four persons on ventilators.
The death toll has regrettably risen to 85.
More isolation, treatment centres
President Akufo-Addo emphasised that in line with the policy of providing optimal care for the sick and reducing COVID-19 related deaths, he had approved further investment for additional ICU bed facilities in the Greater Accra Region, a new treatment centre for Ashanti Region and additional laboratories to strengthen clinical care to allow for real time results.
Also, formal arrangements for a pool of specialist health professionals to complement the respective resident multi-disciplinary health teams at the various treatment centres.
Additionally, more medicines, consumables and equipment are to be procured to enhance delivery.
The President said the government also continued to mobilise holding bay, quarantine, isolation and treatment centres across the country and expressed appreciation to the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) and the Catholic Bishops Conference for making available their facilities to be used as isolation centres.
While GNAT has offered its hostel at Ejisu in the Ashanti Region, the Catholic Bishops Conference have offered its facilities across the country as isolation centres.
Also, President Akufo-Addo commended the gesture of the Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Prof. Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, who has offered his 70-bed hospital in Toase, in the Ashanti Region, as a COVID-19 treatment centre.
Today, final-year SHS Three students and second-year Gold Track students will return to school.
The President has held consultations with members of both the Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS) and the Association of Principals of Technical Institutes (APTI) to agree on the modalities for the return of the students.
The SHS Three students will be in school for six weeks, June 22 to July 31 for tuition and learning, before sitting for the WASSCE examinations from August 3 to September 4.
SHS two Gold Track students are also returning to complete their first semester like their Green Track mates. They will also be in school for six weeks, before going on vacation.