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When Not To Be Apathetic To Education



The Presidential Task Force (PTF)
on COVID-19 on Monday June 29, 2020
assured Nigerians that plans had been finalised to open schools in order to
allow exiting students to write their examinations.

Those expected to return to schools, according to the task force, were final￾year students of Senior
Secondary School (SSS3) class and Junior Secondary School (JSS3) class. With this
announcement, students and pupils that have quarantined to their homes since the last week of March heaved a sigh
of relief.

As hopes rose and people were eagerly looking forward to the quick resumption
of academic activities, the Minister of State for Education and a member of
the PTF, Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, made concrete these hopes when he was
quoted to have disclosed that final students in Nigeria’s secondary schools were slated to write the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination
(SSCE) between August 4 and
September 5, 2020.

As news for possible resumption schools filtered through the airwaves, not a
few were unconcerned with prospects of ensuring a safe environment for returning students. Many analysts
were afraid that both public and private schools were still disinfected as most the
schools were still in need of enabling conditions to discourage the spread of the virus that has killed over 600 Nigerians and infected over 30,000 people, and still counting. In many schools, the challenge of providing
water and safeguarding the health of students and pupils remains a mirage.

Against the backdrop of efforts deployed
by the PTF, those in charge of fighting the Coronavirus pandemic have never created a conducive environment of
combating the virus.

Apart from claims by the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs,
Disaster Management and Social Development which claimed it carried out a school feeding programme
that had gulped billions of naira, not much was done by the government regarding pupils and students during
the lockdowns. The resort to online teaching by some schools became a mirage due to collapsing power
infrastructures occasioned by
power outages and cascading poverty ravaging citizens.In the face of growing
fears fueled by the increasing number of infections recorded daily, the planned
return of students and pupils to schools became a possibility that was seen
as fraught with frightening uncertainties. On Wednesday after a virtual meeting
of the Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja, the Minister of Education,
Malam Adamu Adamu, justified the fears entertained in some quarters that the
planned resumption of schools could turn out a hoax at the end of the day.
Describing the report of the planned resumption as fake and without a basis, Adamu said the Federal Government
was willing to bear the pains of keeping the schools under locks and keys even for a whole session if such could
ensure the safety of students
and pupils.

The view of Adamu threw many Nigerians into a muddle as many analysts argued the rationality of
upturning an earlier decision carried by  hisf minister who is a member of the
PTF, the organ mandated with the responsibility of managing issues relating to the pandemic.

Even before Adamu’s buttal of the planned resumption of schools, the
West African Examinations Council (WAEC), the body responsible for organising the SSCE examinations, had
confirmed that, following plans by the Nigerian government to reopen
schools, the council had approved the conduct of the SSCE between August 4 and September 5, 2020. Nigeria’s
backpedal on the planned reopening of schools has thrown critical stakeholders
into a quagmire of confusion,
with the prospects of life returning to normalcy becoming a conundrum.

What many Nigerians, including yours sincerely, are asking is whether the decision to keep schools under lock
and key remains the best way to combat the spread of Coronavirus. The World
Health Organisation (WHO) had earlier announced that the global community
should be prepared to live with the infection, pending the discovery of a cure. If this is true, then we are wedged
with the virus for now. The question now is: In what way is the postponement of
the planned resumption of schools helping us to fight the virus? What is the total cost of closing these schools
compared to the advantages in reopening them?

Is the option of total shutdown of
schools the only measure to
stop the galloping spread of
COVID-19? think the best way to
prepare against an enemy that
won’t go away is to creatively
find means of dealing with it.
Certainly, closing down our
schools to avoid facing a lion
on the street that won’t go
away is too a simplistic means
of resolving the problem. If
the “future is not for the faint
hearted” as opined by former
United States President
Ronald Reagan, succumbing
to the dismay of crippling fear
does not solve our problem.

Already, WAEC has found itself in a dilemma it finds very difficult to
solve as it cannot go ahead with organising the SSCE examinations for the other four countries Sierra Leone,
Liberia, Gambia and Ghana which had since ordered for resumption of their schools.

Even some states in Nigeria,
including Lagos, are still rn with the decision of either rescinding earlier
decision to reopen schools
or toe the lines of the Federal
Government that had advised states not to reopen schools.

The controversy over
the planned resumption of
educational activities, among
others, is a reflection of the
mix-up that has trailed the
management of COVID-19
by the PTF. To postpone
educational activities and
disrupt students’ academic
progression for an entire year
due to absence of measures
to safeguard school students
against the pandemic
amounts to a deliberate
abortion of the future.

It is an incontrovertible
fact that the lockdown caused
by the plague has led to the
collapse of private businesses
and enshroud with gloomy
uncertainties the survival
of educational institutions.

Any further postponement
of resumption of schools
beyond September is
capable of inflicting
irredeemable assault on
future generations.

I am a bit skeptical over
the reason advanced by
the minister to justify
the continued closure of
schools. I refuse to agree
with Mallam Adamu that the
postponement of planned
resumption of schools could
serve to stave off the spiraling
spread of the virus. Instead
of harping on the dangers of
opening schools for learning,
let us focus on providing a
conducive environment that
can discourage the spread
of the infection when the
schools are finally reopened.

Basic needs like water and
sanitizers are not only
absent in many academic
environments, but most of
these schools are yet to be
In some public schools,
overcrowding, made worse
by dearth of infrastructure,
has turned such learning nvironments into horrible surroundings that are
similar to internally displaced
person (IDP) camps. The
health hazards found in
most of these schools are
more dreadful and fearsome
than COVID-19. I can only
support the postponement
of the planned resumption
of schools only if it will
afford the government the
opportunity of resolving
challenges militating against
the health safety of students
within the shortest possible time.

Lest I be construed, I wish to restate here with all emphasis that beyond the over-dramatisation and politicisation of the virus, COVID-19 is real. What I
am eternally opposed to is riding on public fear of the infection to obliterate
the hope of quick return to normalcy of our national life.

Resorting to threats of the pandemic to justify the continued closure of schools

amounts to mugging the future of education. What we need now are home￾grown strategies that will
facilitate quick resumption of normalcy in all spheres of our national life.