The Federal Ministry of Education had in March ordered the immediate closure of tertiary institutions, secondary and primary schools nationwide following the outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19) in the country. The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Sonny Echono, who gave the order on behalf of the Education Minister, Adamu Adamu, also noted that all 104 unity schools in the country should close on or before the March 26, 2020, as a proactive step aimed at preventing the spread of the dreaded coronavirus.
The closure was initially intended to last for just a month but the increasing number of coronavirus cases had forced the federal government to declare it indefinitely.
Three months down the line, the federal government, in June, submitted proposed guidelines for the reopening of schools in the country to the National Assembly. It had later announced the reopening of schools for only students in Primary 6, JSS3, and SS3 to enable them to prepare for their national examinations. It added that the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations would take place between August and September.
However, days after, the federal government has reversed its earlier announcement on the resumption of schools. The education minister said Nigerian schools will not reopen any time soon “until it is safe to do so because of the COVID-19 pandemic”. He said final year students preparing for the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) will not be allowed to return to school, contrary to the earlier announcement. He said he would rather that “Nigerian students lose an academic year than to expose them to dangers.”
I totally disagree with the stand of the honourable minister of education on this issue. For how long are we going to wait? Schools were closed when the coronavirus cases were fewer than 50, we now have over 32,000 cases and still counting. If we are waiting for the end of this global pandemic before reopening our schools, then we would definitely not reopen them in the near future. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that Covid-19 might last longer than expected, therefore, people must learn how to live with the virus. This is why Germany, Norway and other countries have since reopened their schools. What then is Nigeria waiting for?
To me, the continued schools’ closure does more harm than good to our education, students, society and economy. Our pupils and students in the country are not only delayed, but are at the risk of losing what they learned in the past, thereby pulling our dangling education sector downward. An ideal mind is said to be the devil’s workshop, the closure exposed thousands of students to restiveness, stealing, smoking, sexual assaults and other bad characters. As the schools continue to remain closed, the number of challenges continue to increase and students are likely to lose appetite for schooling.
On the other hand, the failure to reopen the schools is affecting the economy of the country. Government’s income from the education sector has been put to a halt, proprietors and staff of private schools continue to suffer economically. Sellers of reading materials face a decrease in patronage.
If the ban on political campaigns, party meetings, primary elections as well as governorship elections would be lifted, if the ban on our markets, parks, interstate travels, places of worship, airports, stadia and other social activities would be suspended, then why should our schools remain closed? Does that mean we don’t value education? Whatever the case might be, the federal government must think twice and take the bull by the horns.
Bilyaminu Gambo Kong-kol,Mass Communication Department, Bayero University, Kano.[email protected]