Covid-19 as a springboard for necessary reforms
To start with, governments and the managers of education in the region should embark on education system transformation. There should be a conscious effort to improve learning outcomes and make learning relevant to the student.
It is time for governments in the region to reform their school systems to prepare students and ensure they are able to contribute to their countries’ economic development and be competitive globally. This requires a complete overhaul of the school curriculum to reflect the needs and aspirations of the society in the 21st century and beyond. Ghana has taken the lead in this direction.
Again, educational policies in this region are more exclusive than inclusive. An inclusive education policy allows all children, especially those with special needs, to develop and succeed. One of the strategic measures needed by governments in the region is therefore inclusive education. Students should not be denied basic educational resources due to their location, socio-economic status, family background, or physical or psychological deficiencies.
Furthermore, to be able to bridge the learning gap and ensure that teachers are up to speed with the level of learning loss of their students, assessment techniques that are more informative and ipsative should be adopted by educational authorities and implemented in schools. Countries in the region should implement a nationwide assessment during the early weeks of reopening for basic and secondary levels to inform various education decisions (instructional, pedagogical, etc.) at all levels, from the teachers to the ministry of education.
The efficient and effective use of instructional time is a big issue in the region. Research has shown that there is always a discrepancy between actual and intended instructional times due to teacher absenteeism, breaks, lack of textbooks which results in teachers writing comprehensive notes on boards for students, etc.
According to the Human Capital Index (2018), a child in Ghana spends 2.7 more years in school than a child born in Sierra Leone if they both begin school at age 4. However, 5.9 years of the child in Ghana’s education life is wasted, implying that the child learns for only 5.7 years out of the total 11.6 years spent in school.
In the case of the child in Sierra Leone, 4.4 years are wasted years and learning occurs only for 4.5 years. This is unacceptable and governments in the region must find ways to eliminate this waste and ineffective usage of instructional time.
Finally, increasing teachers’ capacity must also be pursued by SSA governments. Covid-19 has exposed the inadequacies in our teacher preparation and continuing professional development programs. Most teachers in the region are not technologically savvy, making it difficult for the smooth implementation of e-learning and EdTech programs and policies.