It was exactly 8:45pm on March 14, 2020 when the President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo announced on national television that he was imposing an executive order to ban all public gatherings in the country. Immediately, because of the COVID 19 pandemic, the government shut down all schools and universities whether they were public or private.
As an educator and school administrator, I begin to feel so bad for the children who attend our school because they have to stay at home as a result of the pandemic. However, we know it is in the best interest of all the children and their families. I immediately started thinking and brainstorming as to how are we going to pay our teachers and staff salaries, meet tax deadlines, pay social security entitlements and other recurring expenses for the school. Oh my! Our daily routines and activities are now going to change dramatically. We will miss the smiling faces and the sweet voices of our little divine kids, and our school yard will be like a quiet and solemn cemetery. No more Wofa Kwame.
It has been 3 months since the fierce COVID-9 pandemic hit us. As a community organizer and activist, I have been traveling to more than 200 communities and villages throughout Central and Western Regions of Ghana with a team of volunteers to sensitize communities on precautionary measures on COVID 19, and also to supply face masks and hand sanitizers to the residents. During my travels, I saw many children who were on the “pandemic holiday break” carrying and/or reading their books. This was so heartbreaking. I begin to ask myself, where are our Divine Kids Academy (DKA) children now, and what are they doing?
As I begin to think about the plight of our Divine Kids I felt I had to do something, So, I took an entire week off from my volunteering schedule to engage our DKA children, teachers and parents to find answers to my questions on the negative impact of COVID 19 on our children and their families. Because the powerful contagious impact of the COVID virus, and for the protection of everyone, the teachers had very limited contact with the divine kids.
I interviewed fifty (50) children between the ages of three (3) and twelve (12) within four days. It was brought to light that children always suffer and struggle in situations that are not routine or predictable and it is very difficult for them to adjust.
I felt so bad after seeing about fifteen (15) children of DKA selling sachet water, oranges, candies and other commodities in the street of Jukwa during market days on Tuesdays and Fridays, During market days in Jukwa over one thousand (1000) people gather at the market center for their business transactions. Unfortunately, these kids are exposed to this deadly virus, but I had no control over this situation. The only alternative for some of our children is to sell on the streets. They accompany their parents to their farms on the other days. Yes indeed, their books are literally on holidays.
From the interviews that I conducted with the children, they shared with me that they help their parents with their morning house chores by cleaning cooking utensils, and sweeping the house before their breakfast. About 95% of these children were happy when they first heard of the ban in schools. They thought that they were going to have fun for a few days. Little did they know that the ban would move into months? They are bored staying at home, and they want to go return to school.
Kofi, an eight year old boy said, “I just want to go back to school to learn, I have also missed my friends especially Evans. He stays very far from our house”
Fredrica, an eleven year old girl who is one of the prefects of the school also said, “I have been telling my friends to wash their hands with soap and water, wear their face masks anytime they are going out. I have been seeing Bernice but I don’t get to spend a lot of time with her. I met two of my teachers on my way to the market. They only asked me how I was doing and they advised me to study at home as well. I want to go back to school.”
When I interviewed a little boy called Nathan who is only 3 ½ years old, he inspired me to look for an alternative to keep the kids at DKA happy whiles at home. He said to me, “I want to see my teacher Madam Hannah, and also play with my friends Lucky, Asare and Fiifi. I have also missed them, and I want to go back to school so that I can speak English. “When are we going back to school?’ he asked. Words of wisdom inspire us, but they value only if we can take them into our hearts and use them in our daily lives. Our lives will never come back to ‘normal’.
With steps of sorrow, I bowed out from the interviews and I only hope with the measures the government has currently taken, restrictions on public gathering and ban on schools will be lifted soon.