COVID-19 And Reopening Of Schools — Cautious Optimism

The press conference by the combined professional groupings in the health sector to highlight the threat of COVID-19 to all was very revealing.
It was organised ostensibly to explain to Ghanaians the threat of COVID-19 to all especially health workers amid worldwide challenges in the supply of protective personal equipment (PPE) and the need for all to take seriously the approved measures to control the pandemic.

Unfortunately, it seemed that all the journalists were interested in was the word “strike” and questions were asked from different angles just to hear what the various unions in the health sector would do if the trend continued.

Health workers are deemed to be only interested in remunerations and remain reticent when issues affecting the health of Ghanaians are under discussion. And that’s why I’m still upset that the Ghana Medical Association missed a golden opportunity to assert its authority on health issues in Ghana and help change the narrative with this pandemic.

With a country split along party lines, it’s no brainer positing that politics would be read into every facet of our lives including health.

I believe it would have been well received by all if the COVID-19 updates and measures were handled by professionals best trained to handle the situation: Fauci-styled COVID-19 updates by the President of the Ghana Medical Association!

The politicking and innuendoes cast at the handling by the government of this pandemic would have been avoided even though I cannot take anything away from the way it has been handled by the Information Ministry so far.

I just think people are so suspicious of politicians handling such problems that no matter how well it is handled, still, the other side would take it with a pinch of salt. The downside of it is that those on the side of government can also fall prey to treating such measures with affectionate contempt.
How else do we explain the blatant disregard to wear face mask by people both opposed and aligned? But one would think that despite all these, the primary target of every action would be to help keep people alive and safe.

Then we can talk about bread and butter issues later. And that’s why I felt a tight knot in my tummy when I read that the Coalition of Private Schools Teachers-Ghana (CPST-Ghana) has impugned political motives into the postponement of the remainder of the academic year for all nursery, kindergarten, primary and junior high school (JHS) 1 and senior high school (SHS) 1 students to 2021.

Mega Clear

“We reject the reasons for denying the Ghanaian children their constitutional rights to education for almost one year and the right of private school teachers to work to earn decent livelihoods,” it was stated.

Also, “the silence of all political parties, religious leaders, the media and civil society organisations. to this issue is a clear attestation to the fact that Ghana as a country does not prioritise the education of our children and if indeed it is true that we reap what we sow, then posterity will be a better judge,” is a quote from one reportage.

One doesn’t have to dig deep to see the malevolent grimace whoever made that statement wore in an attempt to muscle government.

I am a paediatrician and a parent with children in private schools and I am one million per cent sure that I would have kept my children at home even if schools were opened. Why? Just look at examples of countries around the world who opened schools and quickly had to shut down.

Look at the mortality rate from the virus recorded in countries that underestimated the virus. India has now overtaken Brazil in terms of infection rate but because India did not underestimate the virus it has recorded almost 50 per cent less deaths recorded by Brazil- 73,923 deaths for India against 127,517 as at September 9, 2020. One only underestimates this virus to his detriment.

I wonder if the coalition had tested parents’ willingness to send their wards to school should school be reopened. They probably seem to have overestimated parental willingness to send their wards to school while grossly underestimating the looming threat of a possible second wave if measures are not thought through carefully.

I do agree that continuous stay at home of our children has its implications especially the economics of private schools who need to maintain their facilities, pay their members of staff and meet other challenging obligations. But that is what COVID-19 has brought to the fore – the need to think outside the box in challenging circumstances.

At least both schools my kids belong to are doing online lessons for them and that attracts fees I pay monthly. I’m not in any way saying that that is the best way of teaching students but that’s the reality we must all wake up to with the pandemic raging on. How many workers worked from home before the pandemic but now people are comfortable getting used to working life from home.

As a paediatrician, I am well aware of dwindling numbers to our out patient departments when school is in recess. School is the biggest place for children to catch infections and generously share among themselves.

Sometimes, that is a necessary evil or “growth pains” as I tell parents that catching those viruses is a way of building their immune system but COVID-19 is an evolving disease, we don’t even know how long immunity to it lasts. The jury is still out on severity of reinfection and the contributions vaccines could offer.

What I do know is that children share their infections freely among themselves in schools. They hardly adhere to protocols and preventive measures. One child can transmit this virus to majority of his classmates who in turn will send it home and generously share with the rest of the family.

Most parents would attest to the fact that children are hardly falling sick with fever, coughs and cold since the stay at home order was given.

It may be true that children are better equipped to handle the virus but I’m also aware that most of these children are catered for by adults particularly parents and grandparents of working mothers who may not tolerate the virus very well.

The snowballing effect of one wrong move can undo all the gains made in our attempt to contain this pandemic and cautious optimism is the way to go.

Sequential opening of different year groups and measuring the effect to help inform the next step to me is the best approach purely from my professional standpoint. Let us not push for things that may come back to bite us all.

Source: Graphiconline


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.