At the outset of the COVID-19 Pandemic, to curb the spread of the disease, the Ghanaian government closed all schools. As is the case at many privately run schools in Ghana, the pandemic and ensuing nine-month lockdown presented significant challenges and numerous residual problems at GVI partner school; the Divine Home Educational Centre. When asked about the initial lockdown in March of 2020, Madame Habiba—the patron of the school whom all teachers, students, and parents colloquially call “Grandma”—reflected: “COVID was a massive blow to my school and put us through hard times.” Grandma recalled the abruptness of the closing of schools, explaining that they made the announcement on a Sunday leaving her scrambling to make the necessary arrangements for the closure which was put into effect the following day.
Prior to the pandemic, Divine Home was on an upward trend in the quality of its education and moving in the direction of becoming one of the stronger schools in the Kokrobite area. Grandma and her faculty took pride in this upward trend, especially given that Divine Home offers a relatively low-cost educational experience for students: a tuition of 1 Ghanaian Cedi ($0.20 USD) per day for attendance. At the point of the lockdown, Divine Home employed seven full time teachers in addition to Grandma and other supporting faculty. When the national lockdown was lifted and schools reopened in January of 2021, only one of those teachers remained.
During the lockdown, many Ghanaian teachers were unable to earn salaries due to school closures—some returned to the security of their family homes and villages and others went on to pursue alternative employment opportunities. At divine Home, Grandma lost 6 teachers and the school lost as many as fifty of their students. Having already been without nine months’ worth of tuition payments, this loss of approximately a third of the student body, this placed a further financial strain on the school.
With only one teacher remaining and around a hundred students to supervise and teach, the state of the school upon reopening was one of disorder. Grandma and her one teacher, Madame Harriet, were forced to run between classes and even implored some of the more capable students to facilitate lessons from their textbooks and assign homework to their peers. However, in February 2021, GVI was able to re-start its operations in Ghana and, with this, GVI Education Program volunteers were able to step-in and assist at the school. Between February and April, 8 volunteers have worked to cover classes, develop new lessons, and ensure the safety and education of Divine Home students.
In the words of Grandma, “COVID was a blow,” financially, emotionally, and practically in terms of the school’s ability to provide an orderly and safe environment for its students, let alone to provide the educational experience that these students desperately need after missing out on nearly a year’s worth of schooling in these crucially important developmental years in their childhood. As a GVI volunteer working to support the Divine Home, I, for one, am proud to have been able to assist!