, 08 May, 2020 / 6:55 AM
The Catholic education authority in Ghana has applauded efforts by the government to launch a virtual television learning program, which the Accra-based leadership says will keep learners engaged away from schools that were closed in March to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the West African nation.
In an interview with ACI Africa correspondent Wednesday, May 6, Doris Ashun, the General Manager of Catholic Schools in the Directorate of Education at the National Catholic Secretariat (NCS) in Accra lauded the program as an initiative that is beneficial to Catholic students and which will make them busy as long as physical schools remain closed.
“The e-learning, online and television programs put in place by the Ministry of Education and GES (Ghana Education Service) are good initiatives and opportunities for every student in Catholic Schools to take advantage of while at home,” said Mrs. Ashun.
She added, “I advise students of Catholic institutions to take the lessons seriously but in my view the challenge here would be for those students living in areas without electricity, or poor or no network, and those who do not have access to laptops, phones or TVs.”
The virtual television lessons for Basic Schools ranging from kindergarten, primary, Junior High School (JHS) pupils and distant education for students at the Senior High School (SHS) level kick-started on May 6, after the timetable was released by GES.
The Ghana learning TV is a free to air channel that can also be accessed on DStv 312, Gotv 150 and Startimes 312, according to information provided by GES. Lessons in Mathematics, Science, English and Social Studies will be taught from Monday to Friday.
Mrs. Ashun asked Catholic schools in the West African country to also put in place online arrangements for their students to study at home to complement GES’ efforts.
The education official says that individual Catholic schools as well as diocesan education committees in the country have already put in place online arrangements for their students to study while at home.
To make good use of the GES TV learning initiative, Mrs. Ashun advised parents and guardians to journey with their children as the young ones attend their virtual classes.
“My advice to parents and guardians is for them to monitor their children during this period especially their studies. If they are not able to follow the online programs, at least parents should make sure children draw up a study timetable, which would be observed to the letter,” she said.
Mrs. Ashun also advised students that “this is not the period to be visiting friends or going to town, if they have to, follow all the protocols given to us by our leaders and stay safe.”
She lamented that COVID-19 measures had affected learning globally and that in Ghana, timetables for the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) and the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE) have been postponed indefinitely.
“The academic year for the Second Term in our schools was nearing completion when all schools had to be closed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.
Touching on whether teaching and non-teaching staff in private schools run by the Catholic Church will be paid during the COVID-19 period, she said that the school managers had been tasked with engaging staff to agree on how much the schools can pay for the period.
“It is difficult. No one knows when schools would be reopened,” Mrs. Ashun said, adding, “Most parents make full payments of fees when it is time to write end of term examinations. As such, schools would be handicapped in paying full salaries for the number of months the schools remain closed.”
“Already, there are some fears of the smaller private schools having serious challenges of laying off staff or paying reduced salaries to their workers,” she said.
Paul Kwame Annan, a JHS 3 final year pupil of St. Charles Lwanga Roman Catholic Basic School at Abeka, Accra, commended GES for this initiative, which he said, would take away boredom and also help the learners “avoid watching unimportant programs on television.”
The 14-year-old, however, expressed concern that not every child in the country had access to TV and that not every learner had the luxury of watching the television program.
Over the years, the government of Ghana and the religious bodies including the Catholic Church have had a partnership arrangement, which allows churches to manage public schools while the government pays the teachers and provides infrastructure and teaching and learning materials.
The number of schools established by religious bodies have opened access to more children of school going age in Ghana and almost 50 percent of basic schools in the country have been set up by religious bodies and other organizations.
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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa