By Gabriel Dike, Fred Ezeh, Abuja, Aloysius Attah and Jeff Agbodo, Onitsha
The Federal Government has given approval for public and private schools in the country to resume academic and non-academic activities from January 18 as earlier scheduled.
Government said the decision followed the review and appraisal of COVID-19 situation in Nigeria and safety of schools as students return to schools.
Director of Press, Federal Ministry of Education, Ben Goong, in a statement encouraged schools to adhere strictly to COVID-19 safety protocols while they are open to students.
“The Ministry has undertaken a comprehensive appraisal of the situation. After extensive consultations with relevant stakeholders, including governors, commissioners of Education, proprietors and heads of institutions, staff unions and students, the consensus of opinions was that January 18 resumption date should remain, while parents and respective institutions must ensure full compliance with COVID-19 protocols.
“To this end, there must be compulsory wearing of face masks by students, teachers and workers in all schools. There must be temperature checks and hand washing facilities at strategic locations in all schools, as well as constant supply of water and hand sanitizers.
“Similarly, there should be enforcement of maintenance of social distancing and suspension of large gatherings such as assembly and visiting days. Students should also avoid overcrowded places, including limitations in class sizes and hostel occupancy.
“In addition to that, there should be availability of functional health clinics with facilities for isolation and transportation of suspected cases to medical facilities, and strict adherence to other non-pharmaceutical protocols, restrictions and containment measures as may be prescribed/approved by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 from time to time.”
Ministry of Education appealed to parents and students to abide by the measures which are designed to ensure safe reopening of schools for academic and non-academic activities.
Meanwhile, National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), yesterday, said its members are ready to reopen on Monday.
NAPPS said necessary COVID-19 measures have been put in place for the reopening of schools by its members nationwide, on January 18.
Its National President, Yomi Otubela, said private schools in the country cannot afford another prolonged closure to avert total collapse of private education sub-sector.
Otubela enjoined the government to keep the school open and enforce compliance with COVID-19 protocols to save lives and livelihood.
He urged the government to also put in place enforcement mechanism of all non-pharmaceutical protocols in the schools system.
Otubela said continued closure of schools due to the pandemic would impact negatively on the development, safety and mental wellbeing of children globally.
In a related development, private school proprietors in Anambra State yesterday, rejected further extension of school resumption date as announced by Governor Willie Obiano last Tuesday.
Speaking under the auspices of United Independent Proprietors of Private Schools Association of Nigeria, Anambra State chapter, the group lamented that such plan by the government would not only cripple the education sector but exposed school children to unimaginable dangers.
President of the group, Akawor Success, who led over 1,000 other school proprietors in a solidarity prayer match at Royal Ambassador School, Onitsha, said schools are not the cause and centre of COVID-19 spread and should not be portrayed in such manner.
He said government neglected the private schools during last year’s lockdown which affected the academic programmes of the children despite the fact that private schools in the state have put in place all the necessary COVID-19 preventive measures and protocols.
Meanwhile, NAPSS boss thanked the Federal Government for its decision to support private schools teachers through its palliative programme but observed that the experience during the last lockdown and the implementation of the palliative programme came with great concern and reservations.