COVID-19: Over 22,000 students in Upper West fail to return to school

Wa, Sept. 1, GNA – A total of 22,519 Kindergarten (KG), Primary and Junior High School (JHS) students in the Upper West Region have failed to return to school as of May 2021 after a shutdown in March 2020 due to COVID-19.

Out of this, a total of 4,417 are KG students, 8,397 are Primary students, and a total of 9,705 are JHS students.

Madam Janet Kpan, the Regional Girls’ Education Officer in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Wa, under the “Mobilizing for Fighting COVID-19 project being implemented by the Journalists for Human Rights in collaboration with the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA)”.

She said for the KG level, enrolment was 62,803 as of March 2020 which reduced to 58,386 as of May 2021 given the difference of 4,417 students.

She said only the Sissala West District recorded an increase in enrolment at the KG level from 4,423 as at March 2020 to 4,708 students as at May 2021, adding that Nandom Municipality also had all of its 3,227 students returning to school without any dropouts.

Still at the KG level, she said Wa Municipality had the highest number of 934 students not returning to school and this was closely followed by the Nadowli-Kaleo District which had a total of 839 students failing to return after the shutdown.

At the Primary level, the Regional Girls’ Education Officer noted that a total of 120,089 students were in school as at March 2020, but this declined to 111,692 students in May 2021 with a total of 8,397 failing to return.

However, at the Primary level, Sissala East Municipality, made an enrolment gain of 1,031 students followed by Sissala West District with 348 and Wa West also recording a gain of 254 students whilst Namdom Municipality again maintained all its students in school.

Jirapa Municipality recorded the highest number of 1,251 students not returning to school at the Primary level followed by Lawra Municipality which also recorded a total of 1,238 of non-returnees.

For the JHS level, as of March 2020, Madam Kpan noted that there were a total of 44,764 students enrolled, but as of May 2021, a total of 35,059 returned to school while a whopping 9,705 students failed to return.

Here, Wa Municipality increased its enrolment by 534 followed by Sissala West District with an increase of 19 students whereas Nandom Municipality again recorded no increase and no absentees.

Again, Jirapa Municipality recorded the highest number of 909 non-returning students followed by Sissala East Municipality with 525 dropouts.

Madam Kpan also disclosed that a total of 687 girls returned to school with pregnancy as at May 2021, adding that 50 of our girls were in Primary Four, 105 in Primary Five, 261 in Primary Six 48 in JHS1, 91 in JHS2, and 139 in JHS3.

The Regional Girls Education Officer further disclosed that as at May 2021, a total of 85 of the pregnant girls returned to school after childbirth out of which three were in Primary Four, five in Primary Five, another five in Primary Six, 13 in JHS1, 24 in JHS2, and 39 in JHS3.

Madam Kpan noted that but for the “Back-To-School Campaign” initiative by the Ghana Education Service (GES) the case of students failing to return to school would have been worse than this.

According to her, the campaign adopted strategies including community sensitization durbars; radio discussions; training of teachers on how to provide adequate health and emotional support for children in school; and provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) across all schools to enable students observe the COVID-19 protocols.

Others are the use of successful females as role models, regular visits and interaction by officers with pupils, guidance and counselling on further education and other career pathways, and provision of the necessary support to students as and when needed.

On key issues that affected the return of children to school across the region, Madam Kpan identified stigmatization, lack of cooperation from parents, illegal small-scale mining popularly known as galamsey, pregnancy, some students getting married and some abandoning school to engage in driving the commercial motor taxi cab business.

The rest are stigmatization from colleagues, lack of parental support and in the case of those pregnant, who to take care of the child for the mother to return to school.

The Regional Girls’ Education Officer noted that some measures including ensuring punctuality among teachers, teaching children healthy lifestyles including observing the protocols, listening to children concerns both at school and at home among others were also taken to ensure that children already in school continue their education devoid of absenteeism/dropout.

Meanwhile, in June 2021, Dr Richard Wodah-Seme, the Acting Upper West Regional Director of Public Health reported that a total of 58 students from 17 schools across the region have so far contracted COVID-19 since its outbreak in Ghana on 12th March, 2020.

He lauded the collaboration between the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and the GES which enabled them to control any further spread of the disease among their colleagues.

Meanwhile, the Upper West Region currently has a total number of 607 confirmed cases, 73 active cases, and 20 deaths with Wa and Nandom Municipalities contributing more to the total number of cases.