Nigeria’s Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba has said that schools will remain closed until the Federal Government is sure pupils could attend classes without the risk of contracting coronavirus.
Speaking at the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Wednesday, Nwajiuba asked parents and guardians to disregard the rumours making the rounds that will reopen on June 8, 2020.
He said the administration would work in tandem with experts and the World Health Organisation (WHO) before schools can resume because the government could not afford to take any costly risk, especially as it regards the safety of pupils and students in the country.
“June 8 school resumption date report is false. Until we are sure these children can go to school, return safely and not bring up with them COVID-19 and infect people who are more susceptible than they are, then we are running a huge risk and God forbid, in our hurry, something happens to our children, I am not sure how anybody will be able to retrieve what has been lost.”
The minister, however, noted that the government is working on a model to ensure that all children do not return at the same time, with a view to facilitating physical distancing and sanitation.
“We want all our children to go to school by the time the schools would have been able to achieve physical distancing. The plan entails adopting a two-shift system and allowing those who will write exams to return earlier than others.Use this period to upgrade skills and think of how to make their teachings impactful. We are looking at sanitary conditions of all the schools.
“SUBEB (State Universal Basic Education Board) should use some of the money we give them to upgrade sanitary conditions in schools. We are also looking at having sanitatisation booths, working with NASENI (National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure). It is a forewarning to private and state governments to ensure that these things are put in place before schools can reopen,” the minister said.
Nwajiuba explained that for tertiary institutions, there would be the need to have a semester within a semester for the students. He explained that some courses would run in a semester first while others would follow suit in order to maintain physical distancing.
He urged lecturers in tertiary institutions to use the period to upgrade themselves. “A period like this should not be wasted and tertiary institutions must be functioning,” he said.
For secondary schools, the minister said students in senior classes might resume before their junior counterparts. The plan, according to him, is that children should resume by the time schools have achieved physical distancing measures.
“We may have classes in the morning and afternoon at the moment, for the purpose of physical distancing, and all the infrastructure within the school will be used to achieve this.
“I am not sure we will have classes at night. But we can do with morning and afternoon for now,” he said.
Nwajiuba said schools must be ready to display hand sanitiser machines, adding that a key condition for reopening would be the availability of all the materials needed to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, during the 2020 Children’s Day, highlighted the need to build a legacy that would guarantee a safe and secure future for children.
He noted that prior to COVID-19, the nation was faced with the challenge of out-of-school children, regretting that this had been compounded by the compelling need to close schools to contain the spread of the virus.
“The PTF has been deliberating on this situation and wishes to inform Nigerians that the Federal Ministry of Education will roll out measures for safe reopening of our schools.
“The PTF wishes to use the occasion of this celebration to congratulate our children and assure them, their parents, and all stakeholders alike, that all hands are on deck to reopen the schools at a safe time,” he said.
All schools have been locked up across Nigeria since March 2020 as part of the measures to curb the spread of Coronavirus in the country.