The Ghana Education Service and the recently inaugurated Committee on Education for the re-opening of schools have been urged to pay significant attention to issues of congestion and class-sizes in schools at all levels.
This, according to Dr. Bob Offei Manteaw, a Research Fellow at the Center for Climate Change and Sustainability Studies at the University of Ghana were paramount to avoid more COVID-19 infections.
In an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Accra, Dr. Bob Manteaw, who is also a Climate Adaptation and Sanitation Governance specialist emphasized the need for the committee to make bold recommendations that address issues of large class sizes and congestion in schools.
He was emphatic that class sizes in schools at all levels and campus congestion could make it impossible for schools to open under current COVID-19 protocols.
On the reopening of universities, Dr. Bob Manteaw noted that: “Universities cannot be closed forever, and all efforts must be made to bring some cautious normalcy onto campuses”.
He however, cautioned that “serious thinking must go into any decisions about reopening of schools and this must focus on how to manage current levels of congestion and overcrowding in schools”.
The Research Fellow at the Center added that “Both government and the committee must see the current COVID situation as an opportunity to bring innovation and transformation in educational thinking and practice in Ghana”.
“I have suggested elsewhere that government should look at the possibility of bringing Final years and First years in a phased process to campus to ease congestion and overcrowding”.
“First years because they are new, inexperienced and need to be guided to understand life in the university. They need to be encultured into higher education life and online learning can never be a good introduction”.
Dr. Bob Manteaw is of the view that the vulnerability of first year students makes it critically important that they were brought onto campus and guided by the Final year students and faculty members to integrate into.
He said: “First year university life is important. If one gets it wrong it could prove consequential for the entire stay in a university and even beyond, so it is important that authorities address this vulnerability”.
The Governance Specialist believes that: “Final Year students are equally vulnerable, but in another sense. They are in transition. They need guidance to complete thesis as well as make transition decisions.
“This means “continuing students, that is Second and Third Year Students, can be home and do the online learning. They have experience and this can ease congestion and crowding on campuses”.
According to him, such an approach “can free up space in residential halls and in lecture theatres to avoid congestion”.
Dr. Bob Manteaw, who is also a Foresight Analyst and Scenarios Planner said the Committee should be conscious about using the COVID-19 situation to explore innovative changes in education in Ghana.
“As a country, we should not waste the COVID-19 problem. Our attitudes should be about exploring all possibilities to turn problems into opportunities and there is no doubt that the current COVID-19 environment presents tremendous opportunities for transformational changes in educational practice”.
He added that: “It might even be worthwhile to take a look at how the double track system might help alleviate some of the COVID pressures on campuses”.
Dr. Bob Manteaw said this will go a long way in helping to address the challenge of crowding on campuses and to reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19.