Heighten COVID-19 protocols in schools

There is growing anxiety among parents and guardians whose wards are currently in the various Senior High Schools (SHS) due to at least 13 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in schools over the last few days.

On Monday, the parents of some students at Accra Girls SHS where about six cases have been recorded amassed at the school to take their children home over fears that they are unsafe.

The feeling is expected because being separated from your child during a pandemic is the last thing every parent would wish for, especially when the case count  have exceeded 20,000 with active case tally hovering around 5,000.

It is for this reason that we have revisited the issue of safety in schools.

In our editorial ahead of the reopening of schools we implored the government and head of schools to strictly enforce the health protocols in schools including the wearing of facemasks, washing of hands and social distancing.

With prevailing condition in schools, it is evident that we need to scale up all the protocols in schools otherwise the purpose of re-opening schools would be defeated.

In doing so, we expect the government to ensure that all Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and hand hygiene items that were promised the staff and students are supplied as a matter of urgency.

As we already know, in the absence of a vaccine and cure for the virus, one’s safety depends on adherence to the protocols and the unavailability of safety items would only increase the risk of infection.

The heads of schools should not let their guards down. They must be vigilant at all times. We should remember that students may take certain precautions for granted and would need supervision.

The unfortunate death of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) SHS student, although not directly caused by the virus, was avoidable thus similar incidents should be prevented.

Parents must not be made to regret the decision to allow their children to return to school. Indeed, it was not an easy decision but if robust measures are not put in place, they would be compelled to choose safety over education.

Some parents who were not convinced that it was safe to allow their children to be in school, kept them at home. A case in point is Mfantsipim School where 34 students were yet to report to school.

Nonetheless, it is commendable that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has directed a sub-committee of the presidential taskforce on COVID-19 to oversee the prevention of the virus’ spread in schools.

We expect that they would ensure that the guidelines for campus quarantine are strictly enforced and possible gaps swiftly addressed where incidents are suspected to safeguard the children.

The dedication of emergency hotline 311 to link parents to their children’s schools to validate rumours about COVID-19 is welcomed as it would keep the heart of parents at rest.

We also call on various old student associations to support their alma mater with PPEs and sanitary items. If there is a time their alma mater needed them more, it should be now.

We must not fail these children. If we do, we are failing the country’s future.

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