Lately, the public discourse has been directed at contemplations on the reopening of schools. Following the President’s indication to soon put out the roadmap for easing of restrictions, many Ghanaians have deduced from his speech that he may soon announce the reopening of schools for educational activities to resume.
In the case of University of Ghana, it is necessary that we apprise ourselves of the naked realities before we set out to develop a comeback plan.
The University of Ghana offers undergraduate, masters and PHD programs. Aside these programs, it houses a basic school that runs from creche through to JHS 3. The University has not been able to accommodate the entirety of its population thus a large number of students report on campus as and when they may have lectures or other activities to undertake.
Due to the large numbers, lecture halls are always densely populated with students packed on benches and some standing. In the wake of Coronavirus, these gatherings are simply not possible because of the immeasurable exposure to contracting the virus. If Universities are made to resume, is government together with the relevant stakeholders looking at partitioning classes and running a shift system which will not in any way disadvantage any student? Does time favor that improvisation?
How is the university looking at how students are transported to and from lectures? Shuttles are almost always densely populated with students sometimes holding on to the door.
With the dangers Coronavirus poses, students can certainly not board shuttles in the old fashion anymore. What has the university put in place in this direction?
The exam situation is not an exception. Universities resuming implies that exams will be written in the old fashion where contact is made through sharing and collecting of examination sheets and personal contact with invigilators. How best can that situation be regulated?
Libraries are the most frequently visited places in the University community. How is the attendance and use of a library going to be regulated to ensure safety? How also do we manage group study meetings and tutorials?
In all of University of Ghana’s halls, physical distancing is simply just theoretical. Many rooms host quite an alarming number of perchers. Even aside that, rooms which do not host perchers host visitors and in whatever case, physical contact is inexcusable.
Most resident students also frequently move in and out of campus and in this current situation, will get exposed to the virus and put their roommates and those they come into contact with at risk.
Reading rooms serve the purpose of libraries and are heavily populated especially when exams are approaching. If restrictions are to be eased for University students to go and write exams, what is the provision? Can all students be made to study in their rooms?
Most students on campus largely depend on buying already made food than cooking the food themselves to eat. During the day, places like night market, bush canteen and Commonwealth Hall’s basket market are busy with students trooping in and out to buy food.
Most of the students who buy the food sit down to consume it there. In the presence of COVID-19, these food joints can grow to become hotspots of the virus on campus. Bearing in mind that the mentioned food joints are used by lecturers, students and children and teachers from the basic school, what is the way forward? The bowls are always used, washed and re-used. The saucepans in which the meals are prepared are not disposed off after use. Given the continuous contact established through buying and selling, how can the safety of the buyers and sellers be assured?
Nobody can be against the easing of restrictions to bring back normalcy.
But it is necessary to make ourselves aware of these realities to guide the discussions so that in our bid to restore the normal, we don’t further compound the pre-existing complexities.
Written by: Nana Kofi Ampong-Darkwah
Student, University of Ghana