President Akufo-Addo delivered his 13th address to the nation on the new coronavirus disease tonight, 28 June 2020, with a rallying call to Ghanaians to take all the precautions necessary to ensure that young lives stay safe as JHS pupils return to school.
In line with plans first announced in his tenth speech on the COVID-19 pandemic, delivered on 31 May 2020, tomorrow will bring the return to school of final-year junior high school students.
The decision to allow junior and senior high school and university students in their final year to return to their places of learning, together with JHS2 gold-track students, was to enable all four groups to prepare adequately for major examinations.
Strict limits on class sizes
“From tomorrow, Monday 29 June 2020, final-year junior high school students, in 17,439 schools across the country, will return to school to prepare and sit for the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE),” the president confirmed. “They will be the final and, indeed, the largest batch of students to return to school.”
Final-year tertiary students resumed study on campus on Monday 15 June, followed by the final-year senior high school and JHS2 gold-track cohorts on 22 June.
“In all, we are expecting some 750,000 persons, comprising 532,000 JHS3 students and 218,000 teaching and non-teaching staff and invigilators, to be involved in tomorrow’s exercise.”
The JHS3 cohort returning to school tomorrow will study for 11 weeks in order to sit the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE), which will enable them to enter secondary and vocational training institutions.
“There will be no more than 30 students in a class, and there will be a reduced school day, with students reporting to school at 9am and closing at 1pm,” the president said.
“No breaks outside the classroom will be permitted; assemblies and sporting events are banned; and the use by outsiders of school premises for religious and other activities will not be allowed. As is the case for the other educational institutions, each basic school has been mapped to a health facility, and care will be provided to the sick in these health facilities by nurses assigned to these schools.”
Careful preventive measures
President Akufo-Addo was at pains to reassure parents of JHS students that the decision to reopen schools has not been taken lightly. The return to teaching in schools was taken with the agreement of the teachers’ unions. And rigorous planning of a programme of preventive measures to protect the lives of students and staff has preceded tomorrow’s JHS return to the classroom.
“I assure all parents and guardians that the government will not put the lives of 750,000 students, teachers and non-teaching staff, who will be returning to school from tomorrow, at risk … It bears repeating, however, 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 hugging, and wear masks to protect themselves and others,” Akufo-Addo said.
“Our survival, I repeat, is in our own hands, and, together, we can defeat this virus.”
All junior high schools have been fumigated and disinfected. Each JHS has also been linked to a nearby health facility, with medical staff on standby to attend to any urgent requests.
“Additionally, we have procured and distributed 45,000 Veronica buckets; 90,000 gallons of liquid soap; 90,000 rolls of tissue paper; 40,000 thermometer guns; 750,000 pieces of 200ml sanitisers; and 2.2 million reusable face masks – ie, three per person – all with the intent of guaranteeing the safety of the students, teaching and non-teaching staff. Two masks each will be delivered tomorrow, and the third within the next two weeks.”
Progress with recoveries
The president also reminded Ghanaians of the progress they have made so far with containing the spread of the new coronavirus. The weekend figures show continued progress with rehabilitation and treatment with 274 new recoveries from the disease.
“As at Saturday 27 June 2020, our country has recorded 17,351 confirmed cases, with 12,994 recoveries, representing some 75% of positives. This means that, currently, we have 4,245 active cases, having conducted 294,867 tests, one of the highest on the continent,” President Akufo-Addo said. “Thirty persons are severely and critically ill, and we have a total of 112 sad deaths, constituting 0.6% of positives, as we maintain one of the lowest death rates in the world.”
The president urged Ghanaians to rise to the challenge of doing everything in their power to protect their own health and that of people around them.
“We must keep our guard up at all times, and see to it that … COVID-19 becomes nothing but a blip on our forward march to sustained development, progress and prosperity,” he said. It is his hope and belief that Ghana will “come out of this stronger than ever before”.