The impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is being felt in every facet of life. Jobs, relationships and education are all feeling the pressure from a pandemic that is ravaging every corner of the globe.
In Ghana. the situation is not different. All education institutions have been closed, but students are required to take lessons and prepare for exams, and so online platforms have been created to continue to have classes, but how smooth is that going?
“The online platforms have their ups and downs I must say,” says Linda Adwoa Koomson.
“It’s not really easy because this is my first time,” quips Ruben Kwabla Amenyedor.
“We are new to this system and Lecturers should take it gradually with us,” Collins Kwabena Nsiah pleads.
The three are all Level 300 students of the Ghana Institute of Journalism.
While Linda Adwoa Koomson and Collins Kwabena Nsiah are Journalism Students, Ruben Kwabla Amenyedor is a Public Relations Student. They are studying seven subjects for their Bachelor’s Degree in Communication and they are all Weekend Students.
One would expect that these students will be technology savvy and using social media apps for studies should be the least of their problems but they grapple with academic apps on their phones as they struggle to stay at par with their Lecturers.
Ruben has joined four social media platforms created by four Lecturers, Linda and Collins have joined three.
The President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on March 16 in a televised State of the Nation Address on COVID-19 announced the closure of both private and public education institutions with immediate effect. Schools in over 55 countries across the globe remain shut after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a the COVID-19 a global pandemic.
Google classrooms, Wix, and Telegram are the platforms being used for teaching and learning following a directive by the Institution to Lecturers to devise means of engaging their students amidst the increasing cases of the virus in Ghana.
The West African country with a population of close to 30 million has within one week recorded more than double of its cases from 21 on March 21 to 152 by 08:30GMT March 30 according to the official portal for the tracking of disease in Ghana www.ghanahealthservice.org/covid19/.
This has raised concerns among residents about the preparedness of the country’s medical facilities though many of the cases were as a result of the State’s imposition of compulsory 14 days quarantine of persons who arrived in Ghana through the Kotoka International Airport, including Ghanaian citizens before midnight of Sunday, March 22.
Calls for lockdown
The country’s COVID-19 deaths as of March 24 stood at four, and as a result some citizens started intense calls for a shutdown of the country.
The Ghana Medical Association (GMA) is one of such institutions who argued that the country’s health system is not built for such emergencies.
“The GMA is fully conscious of the threat posed by this pandemic, the disturbing trend of community spread and the obvious inadequate capacity of the nation’s health system to deal with the increased numbers of COVID-19 infection especially in the severe to critical cases, call on His Excellency the President of the Republic of Ghana to declare a nationwide lockdown with the exception of essential services with immediate effect,” a statement signed by the President of GMA Dr Frank Ankobea dated March 25 says.
These are having dire consequences on the country’s education and youth.
While Ruben, a resident of Accra, the capital city of Ghana and a staff of a financial institution has no challenge purchasing data bundle and having access to a stable network, the case is different for Linda and Collins.
Collins, though a resident of Accra, currently lives in Bankanme, a rural community in Asante Akyem in the Ashanti region where Internet is a luxury.
“Most of us have travelled to our hometowns for the sake of this outbreak for protection. We don’t have the best of data networks there, so it’s really stressful,” he said.
And Linda had this to say, “It is a good thing because students can always refer to these pages to read comments by both lecturers and other students as well, whenever he or she has the time but one can only access it if there is stable Internet connection and data. Since it’s not something we are used to in our country, it’s a challenge to some of us considering the Internet situation (cost involved, stability, etc) we have in our country, Ghana”.
Though these platforms and many others come in handy as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, the students say in-person studies are unmatched.
“There are online Degree Programmes in the country but I opted for in-person lectures,” Collins intoned.
With no affordability challenge, Ruben however shares in the pain of his colleagues, “like I stated earlier, things are not really easy on those platforms, I will still prefer a face to face approach and we do the online intermittently.”
“With the in-person lectures, I can get an immediate response from the lecturer and colleagues.”
The President ordered the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta to immediately “do an economic impact assessment for a possible lockdown”.
But it was a partial lockdown, affecting only some parts of the country for two weeks.
The lockdown was imposed under the Imposition of Restrictions Act, 20202, as part of stricter measures to contain and halt the spread of the COVID-19 in the country, especially in Accra, Tema, Kasoa and Kumasi, which have been identified as hotspots of the infection.
Areas to be affected by the restrictions in the Greater Accra Region include the Accra Metropolis, Tema Metropolis, the Tema West, Kpone Katamanso, Krowor, Ledzokuku, Adentan, Ashiaman, La-Nkwantanang, Madina, La-Dade-Kotopon, Okaikwei North, Ablekuma North, Ablekuma West, Ablekuma Central, Ayawaso East, Ayawaso North, Ayawaso West, Ayawaso Central, Ga North, Ga West, Ga South, Ga Central, Ga East, Korle-Klottey, Weija/Gbawe and the Awutu Senya East constituencies.
By Zubaida Ismail