By Gabriel Dike, Lagos
The National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS) on Thursday insisted that its members nationwide have put necessary COVID-19 measures in place for the safe reopening of schools on January 18.
NAPPS National President Chief Yomi Otubela said private schools in the country cannot afford another prolonged closure of schools to prevent the total collapse of the private education sub-sector.
Otubela enjoined the government to keep the schools open and enforce compliance with COVID-19 protocols to save lives and livelihoods. He also urged the government to also put in place enforcement mechanism of all non-pharmaceutical protocols in the schools’ system.
‘While we believe that there is no basis for the continued closure of schools in the country due to COVID-19 as this may lead to negative consequences especially for our fragile educational system, we also align with the UNICEF concerns that the effects of closing school for another year will be felt for generations to come,’ he stated.
”However, NAPPS would continue to engage both the government and other stakeholders on the need for resumption of schools without further postponement in the country just as schools are prepared to observe as usual the necessary protocols to prevent the spread of the virus.’
Otubela pointed to the recent pronouncement of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) that schools are not drivers of COVID-19 pandemic, noting that the closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic will impact negatively on the development, safety and mental wellbeing of children globally.
The NAPSS boss used the opportunity to appreciate the Federal Government for their decision to support private schools teachers through their palliative programme but observed that their experience during the last lockdown and the implementation of the palliative programme came with great concern and reservations.
According to him, NAPSS is currently collating the data concerning the support programme and will engage the government in due course of our findings.
He explained that the schools have been at the forefront of support for strict adherence to the COVID-19 safety protocols as recommended by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) within the school environment.
‘This assertion can be supported by clean bills of health received by various schools’ management during the earlier visits of government’s monitoring teams on COVID- 19 safety protocols to schools in the country,’ Otubela stated.
Otubela suggested a phased reopening of schools where some students attend schools in the morning and others in the afternoon or alternative days of the week, especially for public schools with a high population of students. He said this may not apply to private schools due to a manageable number of students per school.
‘Phased reopening of schools for different classes could be adopted. Reduced hours of learning within the school environment to reduce the probability of exposure to the virus,’ he said.
He disclosed that NAPSS members will create isolation rooms within the school environment for those who suddenly show symptoms of illness while in schools.