COVID-19: ‘Allow universities to strategize and reopen’ – UTAG President

The President of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG), Profesor Charles Marfo has asked government to consider giving universities the opportunity to reopen with strategies to keep students safe.

Schools in the country were ordered to shut down after a directive from President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on March 15, 2020, as part of measures to stop the further spread of the Coronavirus disease [COVID-19] in the country.

The schools have remained shut for close to six months now.

Meanwhile, discussions on when the schools will reopen have dominated national discourse in recent times.

While the Ghana National Council of Private Schools (GNACOPS) had argued that it is prudent for government to reopen schools, the teacher unions have kicked against such proposals.

Speaking in his private capacity on Eyewitness News on Thursday, May 21, 2020, Prof Charles Marfo said even though he was not in support of all schools reopening, he was convinced that if universities were given the green light, they could operate successfully.

“Looking at the present case and the state of the COVID-19 and considering comments from the Information Ministry and also the Ministry of Health, they seem to suggest that we are going to be with this or this COVID-19 is going to be with us for a very long time. I was thinking that universities, for instance, should be allowed to strategize and open in a way to complete the semester. That is to say that I still do not believe that all schools should be reopened especially the pre-tertiary institutions who I believe may not be able to conform to the protocols.”

The UTAG President opined that universities should run on a piecemeal basis to ensure that the numbers can always be under control.

But at the university level, I was thinking that if we are allowed to strategize, we could even come to school on a piecemeal basis in the sense that we only have about three to four weeks to finish the semester so I was suggesting that supposed we allowed the universities, they could come in bits and pieces so that the final years could maybe come so that they can spend like two weeks in writing their exams and leave when they are done. And then we can consider letting the other classes come.”

“I was also thinking that because we know the number of students we are dealing with in the universities, if the big universities like University of Ghana, KNUST, and UCC are given the chance to try it, then the other universities could follow suit when they succeed.”

Meanwhile, government says it is engaging educational stakeholders on when and how to reopen schools across the country.

Speaking at the Information Ministry’s press briefing on Thursday, Minister for Information, Kojo Opong Nkrumah said “with the greatest of respects it is not correct, government is not saying that schools are to reopen soon. What we are saying is that consultation on what it takes to reopen schools is what we are currently engaged in. If there has been a misspeak, just to put it in its right context, consultations on what it takes to reopen schools, as part of the potential easing of the general restrictions that we are living under, are what have started.”


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