ABUJA / LAGOS – Strong indications emerged on Wednesday that schools all over the federation may soon reopen but with stringent measures to ensure that the deadly COVID-19 did not jeopardise the process.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, gave this clue in Abuja while briefing reporters on the current state of the pandemic and activities of the PTF.
“Today, May 27, 2020, is also Children’s Day worldwide and this brings to mind the need to build a legacy that would guarantee a safe and secured future for our children.
“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation was faced with the challenge of out-of-school children.
“This has now been compounded by the compelling need for closure of schools as part of the measures to limit the spread of the virus.
“The PTF has been deliberating on this situation and wish to inform Nigerians that the Federal Ministry of Education will roll out measures to be put in place for safe reopening of our schools,” Mustapha stated.
But Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, sort of contradicted the PTF chairman when he explained that government had not arrived at a tentative date yet to reopen schools.
According to him, the PTF was still seeking expert advice on the matter, especially regarding how best students could avoid contracting the virus while learning.
While reacting to speculations that some state governments were liaising with the ministry with a view to reopening schools anytime soon, he said: “The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has not announced any date for the reopening of schools across the country.
“Until we are sure that our children can go to school and return safely without taking COVID-19 home, we are not ready to take the risk of opening schools.”
He also spoke at the daily press briefing of the task force.
He added: “The Federal Government will rely on the opinion of experts and the guidance of the World Health Organisation (WHO) before announcing any school resumption dates.”
Nwajiuba said government was working on a model to ensure that all the children do not return to their schools at the same time to ensure physical and social distancing, as well as proper sanitation and hygiene at every school.
He explained that for tertiary institutions, there would be need to have a semester within a semester for the students.
He added that while some courses would do their semester first, others would follow suit in a bid to maintain social distancing measure.
He urged lecturers in tertiary institutions to use the period to upgrade themselves.
“Period like this should not be wasted and tertiary institutions must be functioning.”
For secondary school students, the minister said that those in senior secondary might resume before their junior counterparts.
He said the plan was that the children should resume by the time schools had achieved the physical distancing measure.
“We may have classes in the morning and afternoon at the moment for the purpose of social distancing and all the infrastructure within the school will be used to achieve this,” the minister said.
He said that the ministry would also look at the sanitary condition of the schools before reopening, noting that schools must be ready to display manually-made hand sanitisers’ machine.
He said that the only condition for reopening of schools would be that they must be ready to receive the students by providing all the needed materials to stop the spread of COVID-19.
He urged state governments and owners of private schools to plan ahead on how to ensure maximum safety for students when the resumption plan is unveiled.
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