Most governments around the world have temporarily closed educational institutions in an attempt to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This column discusses what can be done to mitigate these negative impacts.

Many countries closed down schools, colleges, and universities. The crisis crystallises the dilemma policymakers are facing between closing schools thus reducing contact and saving lives.

Going to school is the best public policy tool available to raise skills. While school time can be fun and can raise social skills and social awareness, from an economic point of view the primary point of being in school is that it increases a child’s ability. Even a relatively short time in school does this; even a relatively short period of missed school will have consequences for skill growth. But can we estimate how much the COVID-19 interruption will affect learning?

WASSCE students
WASSCE students

Ghana confirmed its first case of coronavirus on March 12, 2020, and has since reported a total of 1671 infections and sixteen deaths.

In a bid to keep the rapidly spreading virus at bay, the government has announced a series of sweeping measures including banning mass gatherings and shutting down all borders and schools.

The coronavirus pandemic has revealed the stark regional, social, and economic inequalities in Ghana's educational system.

COVID-19 impact on BECE and WASSCE

Basic Education Certificate Examination, is the standardised exam junior high school students have to take to get into senior high schools, while the West African Senior School Certificate Examination, is the exam taken by senior high school students to get into universities and colleges.

Although the WASSCE has been suspended indefinitely, the Ghana Education Service is currently "in serious discussions" with the West African Examinations Council about the conduct of the BECE.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, WAEC announced on March 20, 2020, that it has put on hold the conduct of the WASSCE for school candidates, 2020 until further notice. This decision was made to support the protocols put in place by governments of WAEC member countries (Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, and Liberia) to avert the spread of the virus.

WAEC is yet to design and release a new timetable for the conduct of the examination which will be made available to all stakeholders when we have normality with the health situation.

For those schools who will complain of not being ready for the exams, Ghana Education Service can fill-in the gaps by concentrating on topics in the latter part of the curriculum on its TV learning channel which is already being aired for all candidates even as learners are at home or WAEC can decide to take certain topics expected per their syllabus to be taught in the last semester out of the test items they will set so all candidates will have a fairground and there will be no complaints.

To address the situation, the Ministry of Education on April 3, 2020, launched TV learning for senior high school students. State broadcaster GBC will also begin airing TV lessons for primary and junior high schools on April 13, and there are plans to produce similar content for radio learning.

BECE-candidates
BECE-candidates

At the same time, higher educational institutions have begun training lecturers in online instruction as they actively turn to web-based alternatives.

So far, the University of Ghana has worked with Vodafone to make SIM cards available to students to enable them to access the college's digital learning platform.

At the same time, many students worry about the effectiveness and feasibility of online pedagogy since lecturers who are not technologically literate may find it difficult to manage online teaching.

But according to a student of the university, the cards' 5 gigabytes of monthly internet data are hardly enough to cover their needs.

University of Ghana
University of Ghana

Students have been told they will still be able to use their SIM cards to access learning platforms even after they have run out of data, but some of them are not confident that this will happen until they witness it.

Digital alternatives

Understanding E-learning is simple. E-learning is learning to utilize electronic technologies to access educational curriculum outside of a traditional classroom.

Many organizations and institutions are using E-learning because it can be as effective as traditional training at a lower cost.

Developing e-learning is more expensive than preparing classroom materials and training the trainers.

There is a need for the government to digitise educational content for students because it saves cost and makes learning easier and effective for students.

Due to the deadly coronavirus, several schools in the country have had to postpone teaching until further notice.

The current coronavirus pandemic is likely to lead to a fundamental restructuring of the global economy.

The decision to shift to online classes has come under a lot of criticism. Some argue that students should be promoted without studying or evaluation.

Others complain about the quality of the courses and connectivity challenges faced by students from remote areas.