A statement issued last week by the Federal Ministry of Education to the effect that secondary schools across the country are to resume today, August 4, is indeed a welcome relief to parents and the affected students who have been bogged down since the nationwide lockdown in March following the index case of the coronavirus pandemic in Lagos. The statement signed by Director of press and public relations in the ministry, Ben Bem Goong, said the decision was reached after a meeting of stakeholders in the education sector on Monday. He said only students in exit classes are expected to resume, so that they can participate in the West African Examination (WAEC) exercise scheduled to begin on August 17, 2020.
“Secondary schools in the country are to reopen as from the 4th of August, 2020 for exit classes only. Students will have two weeks within which to prepare for the West African Examinations (WAEC) due to start on the 17th of August, 2020. These were the unanimous decisions reached today at a virtual consultative meeting between the Federal Ministry of Education, Honourable Commissioners of Education of the 36 states, the Nigeria Union of Teachers, (NUT), the proprietors of private schools, and Chief Executives of examination bodies.
“It was agreed that the exit classes should resume immediately after the Sallah break, from the 4th of August, 2020, to enable them prepare for the WAEC examinations scheduled to commence from the 17th of August, 2020. The meeting also resolved that a passionate appeal be made to the federal government through the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 and public spirited Nigerians for assistance to schools across the country to enable them fast track the preparations for safe reopening, as agreed. Another meeting is scheduled for Tuesday “between the federal ministry of education and chief executives of examination bodies, namely, NECO, NABTEB and NBAIS to harmonise their examination dates, which will be conveyed to stakeholders expeditiously by the Federal Ministry of Education”.
In March 2020, schools across the country were closed in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Although it was announced earlier in July that schools would reopen, the decision was reversed and federal government colleges were exempted from taking part in the WAEC examinations for the year 2020. Various reactions followed the decision, with the House of Representatives, as well as other stakeholders in the education sector, urging the government to reconsider the decision. The ministry of education had eventually announced that it would discuss with WAEC on a possible shift in the date for the commencement of the examination, which was earlier scheduled to begin on August 4.
Ahead of the reopening of educational institutions, the federal government outlined conditions to be met by each of the schools. They have advised the schools to put in place preventive measures against Covid-19 before announcing reopening dates. The Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, made the disclosure at the 2020 policy meeting on Admissions to Tertiary Institutions, last week in Abuja, which was organised by Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB).
Nwajiuba, who represented the Minister, Malam Adamu Adamu, said that the heads of the various educational institutions did not have to wait for a formal order from the government to reopen schools before putting necessary measures in place, in compliance with the recommendations of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
The guidelines include: “All institutions of learning must have hand washing facilities, body temperature checks, body disinfectants at all entering points to their major facilities including the gates, hostels, classes and offices. The whole premises of each institution must be decontaminated and all efforts must be geared toward maintenance of the highest level of hygiene; ensure social and physical distancing in class sizes and eating spaces,” the minister said.
He said the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Covid-19 was working assiduously with facts and figures that reflected the realities of the country’s current situation. The process, he explained, was to enable the response to the challenge so that it could limit and manage the negative effects of the pandemic.
Adamu, however, commended institutions that had responded promptly with different innovations, including the manufacturing of some of the facilities that were required to attend to the pandemic. The minister said those innovations included the production of ventilators, body disinfectants, hand washing soaps, liquid dispensers and body temperature gauges. These products reflect the manifestations of the abundance of talents in the country.
Blueprint commends the minister’s proactive actions and responsiveness in heeding the plea of the vast majority of Nigerians to reopen schools, particularly for the exit classes to enable the students writes their final examinations. We, however, advise the federal government to adopt e-learning, which has now become the global best practice amidst Covid-19. School authorities and students must adhere to the Covid-19 protocols and guidelines as a perquisite for full reopening of schools.