Following the directive by the Federal Government for SS3 students nationwide resume to ahead of the May/June 2020 West African Senior School Certificate (WASSCE), parents and experts have stressed the need for certain safety measures to be put in place to rid schools of reptiles and rodents.
Four months after the Federal Government shut down schools on March 29, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 approved the reopening of schools, specifically for SS3 students who are to write their terminal examinations. This ended the waiting game for owners of private schools and students.
The terminal examinations included the May/June 2020 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE), National Common Entrance Examination (NCCE) for admission into the 104 Federal Government colleges and TEC3 conducted by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE).
Investigations revealed that as schools resume, the main focus of the owners is meeting COVID-19 guidelines such as provision of hand sanitizers, water, wearing of facemask, use of thermometer and social distancing.
But safety experts and parents expect them to do more than that, such as weeding of the over grown grasses/bushes, fumigation of the classrooms, teachers staff rooms and the surrounding, general checking of the desks, certain spots to ensure reptiles are not hibernating there as swell as washing/clearing of rat faeces because of Ebola.
In June, a video online showed wildlife officials in a school battling to capture a three-foot poisonous snake that hibernated in a pupil’s desk and other reports of rodents taking over classrooms. Experts and parents who watched the video said with the four months shutdown of schools, snakes and rodents would find the desks and bushy areas habitable because of the rain and quietness of the classrooms.
They said failure to rid the schools of the unwanted guests as well as faeces of rats would endanger pupils and students when the gates of schools are thrown open. Mrs Kemi Ogundele told The Education Report that safety of pupils was the subject of discussion in a WhatsApp group she belongs.
The PTA of her kids’ school advised the proprietor to fumigate the premises and clear the bushy areas. She said on the school PTA WhatsApp meeting recently, parents expressed concern about safety and mandated the executives to ensure the environment is conducive for learning.
Chief Donatus Ezeobi, a parent said: “With the rain and cold weather, the school owners must rid their compounds of snakes and rodents. You know the animals like cool and quite environment to stay.
“Apart from COVID-19 protocols, they must make the school premises safe for our children. The video trending online about a big snake found in one of the desks in a school is wake-up call for a holistic check to be done before the pupils can start to use the classrooms when school reopen.”
National President, Institute of Safety Professional of Nigeria (ISPON), Mr Nnamdi Ilodiuba, who watched the video advised school owners to check lockers before allowing children into classrooms: “Creepy things could be hiding in the lockers especially after the lockdown of schools for about five months.”
Two parents, who watched the video online, forwarded it to their PTA chairmen. One of them sent it with this message: ‘’Chairman and all executive members. I wish to implore you to ensure proper fumigation of the classrooms, hostels and the general school environment ahead of resumption of our wards. After such a long closure, coupled with the rain, it is a given that harmful and dangerous rodents and reptiles would have infested the environment as shown in the attached video.’’
The proprietor of Rockford Schools, Ikorodu, Lagos, Mr Emmanuel Orji said: ‘’We have provided an automatic water dispenser for hand-washing and infrared thermometer. Some schools have embarked on facemask production. Additional sanitary and sanitation knowledge have been inculcated.
‘’My school have been decontaminated, currently doing something other face lift and waiting for government to give order for reopening. We cannot wait for the reopening of the school, to have our children back to cover up lost ground in terms of academics and to see what could be done to help put food on the table. We have cleared up our environment and carried out the fumigation/ decontamination of the school’s environment too.’’
Executive Director, Starfield Private School, Fagba, Lagos, Mr Chris Eigbe, said before resumption of school, there are things to be done. These include cleaning of the school compound, sanitizing, buying of thermometers and soap as well as putting up posters on COVID-19 and educating parents on how we plan to handle their children.
The Lagos State Government last read the riot act to private schools to comply with health and safety measures before resumption. Director General, Office of Education Quality Assurance (OEQA), Mrs Abiola Seriki-Ayeni, said schools were closed because of the risk and danger posed to the health and safety of pupils, teachers and school administrators.
She said the monitoring and enforcement exercise by OEQA would continue to ensure strict compliance by private schools to the directive to protect pupils and teachers from ravaging COVID-19 pandemic: ‘’The OEQA released guidelines for the safer reopening of schools and learning facilities to safeguard pupils, teachers, workers and parents. The OEQA evaluators will visit private schools to ensure compliance.’’
The guidelines included fumigation of school environment such as classrooms, chairs and desks, provision of running water and washing hand soaps, provision of hand sanitizers, wearing of facemasks, avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness, maintaining social distance, daily screening for body temperature on entry the school and boarding schools to extend these measures to residential facilities, lecture halls and laboratories.
Seriki-Ayeni warned that it is mandatory for private school owners to register with OEQA before reopening of schools and urged school owners to visit:www.oeqalagos.com to register their schools: ‘’School owners are advised to strictly comply with this directive that will be of immense benefit to them. Evaluators will be out to monitor compliance after the expiration of the timeline guaranteed.’’
A parent, Mr Lukman Ogunkoya said:
“The PTA of my daughter’s school held online meeting and advised parents to provide things required for their wards’ resumption. The proprietor was part of the meeting and he confirmed that face mask for teachers was ready including additional taps and sanitizers while fumigation will be done three days before resumption.”
Pastor Collins Osaro told The Education Report: “Last month, I bought six facemasks, gloves and sanitizers for my sons. I have counselled them to observe social distancing. I hope the school will do the needful and monitor the students to ensure full compliance. Fumigation of the school is very important because of reptiles and rodents.”
In June, the Minister of State for Education, Mr Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, listed conditions to be met by schools before reopening: ‘’All institutions must have hand-washing facilities; body temperature checks; body disinfectants at all entering points to their major facilities, including the gates, hostels, classes, offices, etc.
“The whole premises of each institution must be decontaminated; all efforts must be geared toward maintenance of the highest level of hygiene; ensure social/ physical distancing in class sizes and meeting spaces.’’