My First Day at School

Back to school for 9.2 million children, including 1.2 million first-time Kindergarten children

10-year-old Mariatu Abubakar
26 January 2021

The scene is slightly different, but the sounds remain the same: last week schools reopened in Ghana for the first time since the first cases of coronavirus were identified in the country 10 months ago.  Now, children and teachers wear nose masks, greater attention is given to washing hands with soap and running water, and seats are more widely spaced out.  Yet the sense of vibrancy, optimism and peals of laughter all feel very familiar.  

Approximately eight million children - ranging from kindergarten through to senior high school – returned to the classroom last week, eager to adhere to the COVID-19 safety protocols and to learn.  

As part of the support to the return to class for a total of approximately 9.2 million children, UNICEF has provided many schools with hand washing facilities and remedial learning for pupils.  

Nima One Basic School in Accra was one of the schools visited by representatives from the Ghana Education Service, Ghana Health Service, and UNICEF to celebrate ‘My First Day at School’ last week.  

Mrs Eva Edna Bani is Principal of Nima One Basic School which hosts 270 children at primary school level. “The children are clearly very happy to return to school. We have a team of teachers fully ready to support children and ensure safety protocols,” Mrs Bani told UNICEF.  “With the supply of the hand washing stalls, children will practice washing their hands at school and will take this skills home. So, we are very grateful for support from UNICEF”, added the Principal.  

Dreams of some learners at Maamobi Prisons School 

“I want to be a nurse.” 

“I want to be lawyer.” 

“I want to be a police officer.” 

“I want to be a surgeon.” 

Just some of the ambitions shouted out by children of Primary One, Maamobi Prisons School, when they were asked by Anne-Claire Dufay, the UNICEF Representative in Ghana, to share their dreams. "“You can see just how excited children are to come back to school,” said Anne-Claire Dufay.

“School provides an important space for children to learn, to play, and for the development of their well-being.  We must work to our optimum to reimagine a better future for every child and to enable every child to fulfil her or his dreams and potential.” 

Anne-Claire Dufay, UNICEF Representative
UNICEF Representative, Anne-Claire Dufay with school children in Nima One Basic School in Accra.
UNICEF Representative, Anne-Claire Dufay with school children in Nima One Basic School in Accra.

Mariatu wants to be a lawyer  

Ten-year-old Mariatu Abubakar attends Bethany Methodist School in Greater Accra. She is happy to be back at school, looking forward to seeing her friends once again. Not all of her friends have as yet resumed, but she hopes to see them again soon.  

Mariatu wants to be a lawyer and knows that she has to both stay safe and work hard to achieve her dreams.  "It is difficult to wear a mask, but I understand it helps to protect us from COVID-19," she said. "If I see that some of my friends do not wear a nose mask, I will tell them that it is risky.”   

Health screening: Additional benefits of being at school  

For many children, attending school is important not only for learning but also for keeping them healthy through regular screening as well as through the government’s provision of a free school meal to 2,980,000 disadvantaged schools.   


health screening in school
On the first day of return to school, children received a health screening, an added benefit.
COVID-19 posters in schools
A COVID-19 poster pasted on walls in schools as part of the Government of Ghana's initiative to keep schools safe

Mrs Esther Hagan, KG2 assistant teacher at Bethany Methodist Basic School explains that eye, hear and cognitive screening during a first day at school helps to provide an individual learning path depending on the needs of each child. This increases a child’s chances of success in learning and improves the likelihood that they will stay in school longer.  

Anne-Claire Dufay added: “This week is an important milestone for Ghana. We appreciate efforts of the Government of Ghana and the support of our partners, who include the Mastercard Foundation and the Governments of Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, and also the World Bank.  

“Together with our partners we want to reimagine the future and achieve a better, more inclusive and equitable future for every child and young person in Ghana. We want to support all children and youth in Ghana to get back to school – to get back to learning. We look forward to the day when all children have a chance to learn and play and enjoy school life in all its fulness.”