Ghana Education Service (GES) has released a new academic calendar for the 2021 academic year and has directed all schools comprising Kindergarten, Primary and Junior High classes to strictly adhere to it. Per the new academic calendar, Primary schools will continue with the trimester system. Lower primary (KG to Grade 3) students will stay in school from 8am to 12pm (time spent reduced by 2 hours) while upper primary students are expected to stay in school from 8am to 2pm.
Since the previous academic year (i.e., 2019-2020) was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision has been made that all students will be promoted to the next level/grade without assessment. The government is expected to release guidelines on how teachers will incorporate the unfinished syllabus from the previous academic year into the new school year’s curriculum.
Based on our initial discussions with GES, the plan for this academic year is to run an adjusted course for each grade at the primary level. With this adjusted course, teachers are required to repeat key concepts from the previous year alongside the usual curriculum to ensure that students transition properly into their current levels. Government officials have promised to provide tailor-made Teaching and Learning Materials to aid in the implementation of this adjusted course.
Even though some parents are skeptical about the reopening of schools, others are of the view that it is time for the children to go back to school to continue their studies and have vocally stated their readiness.
In response to the difficulties inherent within this academic year (i.e., 2021), especially the threat from further disruption as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pencils of Promise (PoP) has scaled up its efforts through the WASH program to promote hand hygiene in schools. This will help ensure frequent hand washing with soap in schools as it is one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of COVID-19. Moving forward, we will work with all stakeholders to ensure the school environment is safe enough for teaching and learning during this COVID 19 period.
In addition, PoP will prioritize social and emotional learning (SEL) to address the social and emotional needs of learners and teachers during this COVID-19 period. The long break represents an enormous distraction for students and it is likely that students will return to the classroom feeling sluggish and not prepared to immediately resume learning. PoP, through our SEL program, will support students and teachers to psychologically and physically re-adjust to teaching and learning mode. As part of this process, teachers will adopt SEL strategies to help them reconnect with their learners through planning and creativity. This is to ensure teachers ease learners into the next phase of learning, instead of diving in and tackling complex ideas at the onset. PoP will continue to engage with stakeholders, especially teachers, to focus on strategies that enable students to make up for the learning lost.
As a way of welcoming our partner school teachers back to school, we have visited and assured them of our program support in improving the literacy outcomes of learners, and the health of both the learners and teachers alike. Teachers were excited to see us back to their schools after a long stay at home, and promised their continuous support for our programming, especially now that it is needed most due to the COVID-19 pandemic.