The Minister of Education, Dr. Mathew Opoku Prempeh, has said that all decisions on education in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic will be in the best interest of pupils and students.
According to him, all efforts and steps that the government through various agencies under the Ministry of Education will make will inure to the benefit of the pupils and students population.
Dr. Prempeh, who was speaking with Serwaa Amihere on the GHone TV flagship programme, GHTODAY, said: “We are rolling out measures that will enable students to learn via television and radio stations apart from the online.’’
He said: “We are not only making access to education online. When my ministry held the press conference we said TV, we even started the TV before….there is Online and there is TV.’’
According to the minister, who spoke on Ghana’s education in the midst of COVID-19, ‘’by the time school reopens there would be radio as well. As we speak, we are working with GBC and other studios, we are recording.’’
He explained that what happened was that with the KG – JHS level they were left with one week for vacation, and school is supposed to resume on May 4, 2020 so they are in their normal vacation period.
Dr. Prempeh revealed that ‘’the plan the GES is working with is that by the time school reopens, if we are not able to reopen on the 4th or 5th of May then the programmes that we are recording to let Academics continue will come out. In that sense we would have TV sessions for kindergarten, TV sessions for primary and TV sessions for JHS. We already have TV sessions for the SHSs.’’
‘’Some other television networks have scrambled channels for us for free as part of their CSR. And I must hasten to say that we are still looking for more TV stations to collaborate with the GES to show more approved programmes, to show more certified programmes.,’’ he said.
He said: ‘’I know that most stations are doing something on education, only ensure that what you are doing on education is in line with the curriculum that the GES is employing, it’s a different ball game. I know that GES has written to all media companies that if you want to deploy educational content come and let’s jaw-jaw on the content you want to deploy whether it is in line with the GES curriculum. I think that every responsible station that’s what you should do. If you want to advertise a drug on your station the first thing you ask is has it been certified by the FDA before you can advertise the drug, if not a responsible station like this won’t advertise the drug.’’
The minister said: ‘’If you are airing a programme you have to ask yourself, is it in tandem, is it approved, is it certified, does it fit into the curriculum that we run, if not, you probably would be causing more harm than good.’’
Touching on problems associated with online learning for students, he said: ‘’it is not every part of the country that has 4G, it is not every part that even has 3G, it is not every part of the country that has mobile telephony connection, so we know, but have to make do with what we have.’’
Dr. Prempeh said: ‘’We have to be very practical and pragmatic about our living statistics, if you don’t have it, you don’t have it, you don’t shout to have it.
It was interesting that I was monitoring the news on VOA and I found out that the Americans, the senate of the USA is deciding to probably appropriate billions to ensure that fibre optics get into the rural areas because they don’t exist.’’
He said: ‘’The problem we are talking about exists even in the United States, it exists in the UK and there is better coverage in those countries than us, so accessibility is a problem.’’
He said that the Ministry of Communications is in tandem with the government’s plans in making it better, adding ‘’Just last week, the Ministry of Communications made available more band waves to MTN and Vodafone to just carry the traffic.’’
On complaints bothering online learning, Dr. Prempeh in a candid position said: ‘’People are living in new realities, I am not saying all have been solved, even when we were pre-Covid-19, even educational infrastructure did not exist everywhere, and the quality educational infrastructure did not exist everywhere, so it is not as if we are not aware of the problems.’’
The Minister of Education said: ‘’Government is making frantic efforts, calculated efforts to relieve the country of those burdens, that is why we have all these digital infrastructures going on all over the country, and the public comes in and then education has to move with the 21st century automatically.’’
He said: “The country is not even there. Businesses, if the life bloods of the economy are not able to communicate or work as they expect even in this COVID-19 times, we have to accept the fact that that is the reality in the country, and make do with what have.’’
Touching on areas without computers and internet, he said: ‘’those areas that don’t have internet access, is it because of government? No, it is because the mobile telecom companies don’t see the profitability in those areas and that is why they probably cover only where they make their money first.”
Dr. Prempeh said that in the last three years government has pumped in more money to send mobile telephony to over 800 rural communities whereas in the previous four years only twenty- something was done.
He said: ‘’Government knows the problem, that if it doesn’t make business sense the businessman will not go there, so what has happened in other countries that Ghana is following is that the government sees the black spot in the telecommunication sector and government invests in that so that the company can ride on the back of the government for free.’’