The Federal Government says it can not open schools until it is sure “our children can go to school and return safely without taking COVID-19 home”.
The Minister of State Education, Mr. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, said this on Wednesday in Abuja at the 36th joint national briefing of the taskforce.
The minister, who denied the reports that the PTF said schools would reopen in the country on June 8, said the government could not afford to take any costly risk, especially as it regards the safety of pupils and students in the country.
He said: “Until we are sure these children can go to school, return safely and not bring up with them COVID-19 and infect people who are more susceptible than they are, then we are running a huge risk and God forbid, in our hurry, something happens to our children, I am not sure how anybody will be able to retrieve what has been lost.”
He appealed to private owners of schools to co-operate with the government in ensuring a safe reopening.
“We are going to publish a specification on what we expect COVID-19 or post-COVID-19 reopening to look like.
“We are not talking about coping with COVID-19 but in spite of COVID-19, we expect that we will adapt.
“For a country that has over 115,000 primary schools, you will understand that 35,000 of these who are private must agree to set up the same standard in other to allow children to go in.”
He added: “The material that the chairman of the PTF spoke about, which is an announcement purportedly from him, that we’re reopening all schools on the 8th June did not emanate from us.
“We are going to prepare as much as possible within the guidance that they offer us with their expertise, working in conjunction with the WHO before we reopen schools.”
Planned structure for school reopening
The minister explained that the plan for the reopening of the schools will be staggered.
“For tertiary institutions, when people hear that the University of Ibadan had Zoom meeting, we sanctioned it.
“You can’t say because they are closed that because students are not in school, they can’t hold council meetings.
“That is legitimately their work and that is within the ambit of what the government thinks all its workers should be doing – the same way we do Zoom meetings or online meetings,” he said.
“We also believe that those who work in universities and other institutions should use this period to either upgrade skills, take on new courses, find out what they need to do to make their teaching and learning more impactful and use this period and let it not go to waste.
“So, we know that the universities, polytechnics, colleges of education, all their apparatus of governance must be functioning; there is no gap on those ones,” the minister added.
For secondary schools, the minister said: “We want to bring in our JSS children and SSS first.
“They conclude their exams, vacate the place, use as much of the space as possible and then others can return.
“We will do the same thing with public schools where we will now limit the number of children per class.
“What this may mean also is that we may have classes in the morning, and then have classes in the afternoon.
“So, whichever is convenient for you, you will now be divided.”
Sanitation booth for students
According to the minister, the Institute of Chemical Technology in Zaria informed the Ministry of Science and Technology that it was able to produce chemicals “with which we can bring two-metre booths, standardised by NASENI in the ministry of science and technology and allowed to be produced by companies that will be licensed by the ministry of trade and investment.”
He added that it will be available everywhere in the country in almost 200,000 location so that people can walk into a school and disinfect on their way going in and be disinfected on their way coming out.
He added: “So that even if they got anything inside, they don’t leave with it.
“Those are the kinds of plans we are looking at on a broader national picture.
“But like I said, this would be synthesised.
“It is a forewarning to private and state governments that the only conditions for which we’re going to be reopening anywhere are that these places become ready to receive students and bring them home safely.”