14-year-old Elizabeth describes how her daily life has been upended since schools closed in Ghana to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. She is able to continue learning at home with the help of teachers, other students, and support from her parents. But she looks forward to going back to school in September.
Elizabeth Ampomah is a member of Teach For All’s Student Leader Advisory Counciland a student of Lead For Ghana teachers.On March 15, 2020, the government of Ghana ordered the closure of all education institutions to slow down the COVID-19 pandemic and control its effect on the health sector.
Due to the school closures, my life and that of my family have changed a lot, and a large number of students, teachers and parents are in the same situation.
Education in my community and around me has changed from the usual classroom learning structure to a remote learning system, which includes distance and online learning platforms, and the rolling out of lessons on Ghana Learning Television (GLTV) and on the radio.
Daily chores are added to my routine
I am a student at Lamashegu M/A Junior High School in Tamale, where I live. This was not how I planned to spend the academic year! I wake up each day and get on my mom’s phone to access the content and assignments my teachers send me. I also exercise after I am done with my house chores each morning.
I am now in charge of cooking, washing dishes, cleaning the compound, and washing clothes. This makes it very challenging for me to learn, so I try to manage it by doing most of my house chores in the morning, then by evening I do my learning. My routines are extremely repetitive.
My parents are home too, and they are more supportive than ever. They help me with my assignments and also engage me with more assignments after I am done with what my teachers send me.
My mother, who is a trader, had to stop working because she couldn’t go outside to trade some weeks ago. Things are now better for her because she can trade from home. My mom is very helpful, she assists me with my house chores sometimes, leaving me enough time to study.
Connectivity issues make learning remotely difficult
Despite the remote learning platforms to combat the effect of COVID-19 on education, I and some students in my community still face a lot of challenges in ensuring equitable access to these services, because we do not have access to online learning devices or the internet at home.
A large number of us in my community lack technology such as TV sets, computers, smart phones and other online devices, as well as stable internet connectivity.
Some students like me also depend on school to access textbooks and devices, so the closure of schools means many students who have inadequate resources at home are unable to learn.
Thanks to some teachers around me who help me with weekly assignments, however, I am always actively learning.
The government, teachers, students and parents are working hard to solve the education challenges Ghana is currently facing. A few teachers in my community, especially my teachers at Lamashegu in Tamale, have started sending me and other students weekly assignments through text messages.
For some other students who can’t be reached through text messages and phone calls, the teachers make home visits where they support students by giving them print-out questions and assignments on a weekly basis.
Support from other students and teachers
I find the text messages and phone calls learning very interesting and easy to access as compared to the online learning platforms. The challenging part of my learning is how to send my weekly assignments to my teachers through text messages. The content is relatively large, so typing it with a small phone is very challenging. So, I print out my work and submit it to my teacher who always comes around on weekends to check on me.
Some parents now hire teachers to teach their kids from their homes, though I am not part of this group, because my teachers live far from where I stay. In my community, I and some other students grouped ourselves into small groups to study together. Each group has 3 to 5 students and is based on how close we live to each other.
I find this very helpful and interactive, because we discuss and answer assignments given to us by our teachers. We sometimes have conference calls with each other and our teachers, where we ask questions and each person contributes his or her view. This keeps us all actively learning and studying.Subscribe to our blog alertsEmail
What will need to change when schools reopen
When schools finally reopen fully by September, as the government says, I will expect them to ensure that there is satisfactory sanitation, handwashing and water facilities, as well as capacity building for teachers on how to recognize learners who display symptoms of ill health and refer them for treatment.
Training and development in online learning for teachers and students is also paramount. There should be equitable training and sharing of resources from the national to the local levels, especially the provision of enough teaching and learning material at the local level so that every school in Ghana can have its fair share.
Due to inadequate learning resources, my school does not have enough textbooks to distribute to us, but I am confident that the government can provide these materials, because we have been told it will be one of the focuses when schools reopen.
Even though I have been able to continue to learn with the support of my family, teachers and other students, I am looking forward to schools reopening because I miss being in the classroom surrounded by my peers, and also, the school’s environment is more conducive for learning.
Note: Ghana applied for and received a US$15 million GPE COVID-19 grant to support its response to the pandemic. The funding will support the development of remote learning modules, teacher training, school grants to establish handwashing facilities and latrines in all schools, and remedial support for at-risk students. Find out more on the Ghana page.
By: Elizabeth Ampomah , Lamashegu M/A Junior High School in Tamale, Ghana