The Federal Government has released new guidelines for the resumption of schools at every level in the country. But it was without a specific date for the school reopening.
The fresh guidelines were contained in a 52-page document released by the federal Ministry of Health and the National Centre for Disease Control education emergencies working group and signed by Mallam Adamu Adamu, the Minister of Education.
The guidelines are for the safe reopening of schools and learning facilities after the COVID-19 pandemic outlined actions, measures, and requirements needed for resumption.
The document stated that learners should be supported to stay two metres apart. However, where the two-meter rule cannot be reasonably applied, other risk mitigation strategies may be adopted. ”Examples include early years, younger primary school children, and those with additional needs”
Part of the guideline states: “The Federal and state governments should be guided by recommendations, advice, or directives from the World Health Organization (WHO), Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for effective risk avoidance and mitigation of the effect of COVID-19.
“Decision making should also involve all major stakeholders, including government at all levels, communities, and civil society. This is to ensure that decisions and planned actions are based on comprehensive analysis, consensus, and adequate consideration for context”.
Also to be considered is the level of community transmission nationwide and level of compliance with the safety guidelines. A team of Readiness and Compliance Assessors would also be dispatched to schools with a checklist to determine their suitability for reopening.
The Federal Government listed several questions that must be answered before schools should reopen in any part of the country.
Some of the questions are; “What is the level of compliance by the public with the guidelines? There has to be evidence that this compliance can translate to the education community when schools reopen. “How much capacity has Nigeria developed for national testing? What is the capacity to test, trace, isolate, and support the schools when cases are suspected? Does Nigeria have the capacity to test all returning staff and learners in (boarding) school facilities?
“What is the capacity of the healthcare systems nationwide to promptly detect and contain an upward surge in the number of coronavirus cases if a second wave occurs? Are schools able and ready to implement infection prevention and control measures?
“What is the capacity of schools and learning facilities nationwide to maintain safe school operations (such as social distancing) to mitigate risks? For example, size of classroom compared to number of learners; cross-ventilation in classrooms/TLCs; availability of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) amenities, including latrines, hand-washing facilities with soap and water? How does the school population travel to and from school? What’s the risk of using public transportation for teachers, education personnel, and learners? What are the community-related risk factors to reopening schools for both teachers and learners, considering epidemiological factors, public health and healthcare capacities, population density, and adherence to social distancing and good hygiene practices?
“Federal and States Ministries of Education should decide when to reopen after due consultations with the Presidential Task Force PTF on COVID-19, Federal Ministry of Health, National Centre for Disease Control NCDC, and other critical stakeholders, including non-state education providers, teachers’ unions, PTAs, and school-based management committees (SBMCs). It is equally crucial that consultations are held and communication exchanged with parents, teachers, learners, and communities to understand and address common concerns.
“Decisions on safe reopening should be contingent on meeting the requirements set out in these guidelines and on a case-by-case basis for each school and learning facility. To this end, a multi-sectoral approach comprising of education, health, environment and, Emergency Operation Centres (EOCs) should use the Joint Assessment for Safe Reopening of Schools and Learning Facilities to determine when each school should reopen”, the guidelines stated.
Mr Boss Mustapha, Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce PTF on Covid-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), said the Federal Government would not do anything to compromise the safety of students and pupils.
“The PTF has assessed the circumstances and has put in place necessary guidelines to be followed while the managers of the sector have the responsibility for drawing up the protocols and determining the dates. We urge Nigerians to follow closely the critical steps being taken by the Federal Ministry of Education in conjunction with other stakeholders.
“Further to this, the Federal Ministry of Education has released Guidelines for Schools and Learning Facilities reopening after COVID-19 Pandemic closure. The guidelines clearly spell out major things to consider before schools and learning facilities shall reopen, the reopening process, sequencing and scheduling of safe reopening and decisions about schools reopening.“
The PTF recognizes the efforts of our innovators, researchers and research institutions in working to get a solution to the COVID-19, especially its cure. However, we refrain from misleading the public into believing that a cure has been found or certified when indeed the validation processes was still on-going. This call is necessitated by the recent publication that a cure for COVID-19 had been listed by NAFDAC. The Agency has debunked the claim and we advise Nigerians to be vigilant”, he added.
Also speaking, Minister of State, Education, Hon. Emeka Nwajiuba who did not give a specific date as to when schools would be reopened said the guidelines contain what managers of schools have to do before they can be reopened and also what they must do to remain opened.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the closure of schools and other learning facilities since March. The Federal Government reversed its earlier announcement on the resumption of schools.
Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, the Minister of State for Education, also announced during a media briefing on July 6 that WAEC examination will take place between August 4 and September 5.
But Mr Adamu last week said no Nigerian school will participate in examinations earlier scheduled for August 5 to September 5.
This year’s examination was postponed indefinitely in April after it was earlier scheduled to commence in May.