The move by the Federal Government to reopen schools for graduating students this week was received with mixed reactions and the reasons are not far-fetched.
Sadly, the number of Covid-19 cases keep rising daily and experts warn that we have not reached the peak of the disease in Nigeria or Africa.
UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, had said the coronavirus pandemic has prompted the largest educational disruption in history that has affected more than 1 billion students worldwide.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the largest disruption of education ever. In mid-July, schools were closed in more than 160 countries, affecting over 1 billion students,” Guterres said in a video address marking the launch of a new global policy brief on Education and COVID-19.
It is instructive to note that the Federal Government had released guidelines for the safe reopening of our schools. According to the Ministry of Education, the Guidelines for Schools and Learning Facilities Reopening after COVID-19 Pandemic Closures outline key strategies for implementing safe and efficient and equitable plans for school reopening and operations.The ministry noted that the document focuses on attendance, social distancing, hygiene, cleaning, and non-pharmaceutical interventions for safe and healthy school activities and programs.
In my opinion, while we can’t keep children perpetually at home, we should be careful in full reopening of schools. Getting graduating students to write their exams is a good idea because then, we can achieve the guidelines of social distancing and all. It’s good for the exit students to write their exams and get it done with. But the main issue will come when we open schools for all students.
While private schools will have no problem with adhering to the Covid-19 protocols, what about the public schools, especially schools in suburbs in major cities and villages? Clean portable water in some villages is something they see on televisions. Where is the clean water for the hand washing and all? Some pupils in some villages sit on the floor in classes and some under the trees. How will social distancing or personal hygiene work in these cases?
I don’t think we should be too hasty in reopening schools for all the students to resume as I strongly believe we don’t have the capacity to handle the cases if it increases exponentially.
Needless to say, the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed our healthcare system which is on life support. It is gratifying to note that the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, have both said the Covid-19 pandemic has given us an opportunity to fix our critical sectors.
We should also learn from countries like Isreal, Ghana and South Africa who recorded a spike in cases after reopening schools.
If it’s possible, I think we should carry out a Covid-19 test on all students and teachers in the country before they can resume. A Covid-19 test result should be mandatory for all teachers and students to resume. But is that possible in Nigeria? Who will bear the cost of the tests, certainly not the poor parents who are finding it hard to feed and survive. We are in a dicey situation right now. We just hope and pray that the much-awaited vaccine comes out in good time.