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General News of Thursday, 4 June 2020

Source: www.ghanaweb.com

What’s the point of graduating and dying? – University students react to reopening of schools

An announcement from the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on May 31, 2020, sparked debates, questions and reactions. He ordered for the easing of restrictions in a number of areas as the country comes to terms with what is now famously known as ‘living with the Coronavirus’.

The most outstanding, however, happened to be the reopening of schools for all final year students in all institutions nationwide, and a partial lifting of the ban on public gathering, for churches and mosques.

Churches, mosques and their leaders have reacted. Education Unions and some experts have also reacted but how are students who are going to be writing these exams feeling?

What is their take on the government’s decision regarding them? Do they think it is in their best interest? Do they feel safe? Are they ready to oblige? And how are they preparing in terms of coping with this? GhanaWeb decided to explore these questions but from the university student’s perspective.

From a sample of students from some of the country’s universities, including the University of Ghana Legon, and the Ghana Institute of Journalism, responses varied.

Whilst some agreed and endorsed the President’s decision, others were displeased, quizzing the rationale behind reopening of schools amidst the high numbers.

What’s the use of getting good grades and dying? Some of them quizzed. For others, however, their stance was, “it’s not a bad idea”, “I think it’s the best”, and in some cases, it was a “mixed feeling’.

Below are some of the sampled reactions from students as captured by GhanaWeb:

“I received this with mixed feeling because, on one hand, final year students will get to complete their examination and successfully graduate and be awarded their certificates but on the other hand, our lives are way important than graduating and getting a certificate. What use or benefit will it be if someone writes the exam and successfully passes but along the line, they contract the disease and don’t make it, these are some of the things that should be on our minds. The numbers are rising and this should be of great concern to us. I don’t even know why this move was taken because at the tertiary level, for example, people were going to write their exams online so there was no need for this. I doubt if we feel safe because the processes to go through and the time frame is short. Students are travelling all over Ghana, you don’t know how they are feeling, you don’t know if they carry the virus or not and there was nothing like testing for students.”, A student of the Ghana Institute of Journalism noted.

The decision was one that was not probably thought through”, a student of AUCC said.
“From what I have seen so far, it looks like a lot of the Vice Chancellors were not consulted. A lot of the schools have managed to find a way where the exams are being done online. Personally, I’m not one to try to put myself in a space where I would be put at risk. All in all, I’ll just say COVID-19 has shown us that our systems may be just a little backward and need to be upgraded so that no one is left behind if it happens like that” She continued.

“It's not a bad idea, it’s not a good idea too. It can be bad and it can be good. In a way, I think that is what they have to do to help the education system because if we do not do it like that, it means we are drawing back as a country. And the students, anything can happen, I learnt when some of them came back they had braided and other things, I mean pregnancy can even pop up. If something like this has been brought up, we should try and manage it. The measures put in place; they have to abide by it, we are not in ordinary times.” Another student of GIJ said.

"I think it is not a safe decision because people will try to meet each other, pick up from where they lost, hold group discussions to prepare for their exams. You cannot stop students from doing that, though there’ll be restrictions on movements, it will pose a high risk of infection. The thought of writing an exam during a pandemic will be uncomfortable. Writing with a face mask and all will be uncomfortable.", and this was the view of one University of Ghana final year student.

"Personally, I believe that reopening is not really a bad thing because each day, it is becoming more evident that COVID-19 has come to stay with us so we have to find ways of living our normal lives with it. Eventually, we cannot say we will wait for it to go before we reopen and so this phase reopening is in the right direction. I don't think it is putting education above lives. It is in the best interest of students" Edem of UCC said.

“For the reopening of schools, I think it is the best. The president did state, that it is only for the final year students. My friends will attest to this fact, all things being equal, they’ve worked hard enough and they need to graduate. When you ask them, they'll tell you they'd have preferred to do everything online. For the grades, some will do well and some wouldn't. It is best if only the final years go back to school and complete whatever they started.” Another student stated.

For Kelvin, a final year student of the University of Ghana, the decision was a bad one. “I think it was a bad decision, because the cases keep going up and we going to school, how definite is it that we are going to practice social distancing. Also, I don’t think that the time given for lectures and revision is enough because we were getting used to this online learning. The online learning was getting better and okay. Going back to school, revision and everything, I think it's going to affect people's grades. People have conscientised themselves, with the online and now they have to come back to reset etc. I honestly don’t think it is a good idea.”



For this student of UG, Legon, he said, "I believe that the decision of the government to reopen schools is quite beneficial, taking into cognisance the fact that, if the economy and education is being stalled, the global market and education will still go on, with or without our graduation. Foreign master’s programs will still admit next year with or without us so I think it was imperative for them to reopen for us to take our exams. I don’t think it will affect students so much, in fact if we come back to campus, it will be beneficial because we can study with people, but the online study methods are beneficial.

Ekow Quansah, a final year student, though commended government’s efforts at fighting the pandemic, said, “His decision to open up schools for the final year students, is one that is not appropriate at this critical moment. As we all know, the numbers are increasing daily and we are not in charge of the Coronavirus, taking a cue from France where schools were asked to reopen and shut down again because the numbers were increasing from those domains. If we look at our country, we don’t have the capacity to test all teachers, students etc. the decision at this critical moment is not the best because you are putting their lives at risk, you are prioritising their education over their health.

Pius Baidoo, another final year student of the University of Ghana said, "I think it is a step in the right direction. I think not all people had access to online studies so they going back to school to complete their syllabus is better. Those who cannot stay home and do the online, can come back and its fine. Students have already adjusted to online so there’s no need for us to go back to campus.”

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