Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government has warned state governments against succumbing to pressure from parents and other caregivers to re-open schools, saying that it was capable of worsening the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
The Minister of State, Education, Mr Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, gave the warning on Monday at the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.
He was reacting to a question of parents expressing concerns over Oyo State’s planned reopening of schools.
He said that the Federal Ministry of Education did not give Oyo State any guidance on re-opening schools in the state.
The minister said he was particularly concerned about the spike in confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Oyo State.
Nwajiuba also announced that the final year students preparing for the West African Examination Council (WAEC)’s Senior Senior Secondary School Examination, National Examination Council (NECO) and National Business and Technical Education Board (NABTEB examinations would soon be allowed to resume for revisions.
He urged parents and other stakeholders to continue to bear with the government while the situation is being monitored so as to guarantee the safety of their children when the schools are eventually re-opened.
‘The Ministry of Education did not give guidance to Oyo State to reopen schools. We also think that is a little bit of contradictory because if you look next to them is Ogun state that actually had a lockdown,’ he stated.
‘So, there is no reason why there should be more numbers in Oyo State than there are in Ogun State, where we thought we had the problem. Something is not okay in that respect.
‘However, Oyo State like all other sub-nationals have governors, and under our Constitution governors are responsible for their states,’ the minister said.
The minister said that since the primary purpose of government is the security of its citizens, public health was so key and primary in the security delivery.
He said this was why the government has been extremely conscious in making any pronouncement around the re-opening of schools.
‘The education sector owns the largest number of infrastructure in the country, with 138,000 primary schools around the country. If we just re-open that alone, there are nearly 600 all kinds of institutions awarding certificates around Nigeria and at any giving time in Nigeria, there are nearly 30 million people attending one form of formal education or the other.
‘That is about the largest in Sub-Saharan Africa. For you to unleash this number to the public in the face of the pandemic will be very insensitive,’ he said.
Mr Nwajiuba said that Nigeria has not achieved optimal testing and could not forecast the hazard the pandemic, saying the least government can do is to keep the children safe and under lockdown.
He urged parents and other caregivers to continue to keep the children safe at home for their sakes and for everyone’s.
Related: Enugu records 68 new COVID-19 cases