After more than 4 months of closure to avoid spread of COVID-19, the Federal Government finally announced on Monday that Senior Secondary School 3 pupils can resume on 4 August in preparation for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination, which is starting on 17 August.
The Federal Government’s decision was contained in a statement titled ‘Exit classes to reopen August 4″ by the Ministry of Education’s Director of Press and Public Relations, Ben Goong,
According to the statement, the decision came after a virtual consultative meeting between the Federal Ministry of Education, Commissioners of Education of the 36 states, the Nigerian Union of Teachers, (NUT), the proprietors of private schools and Chief Executives of examination bodies.
However, views and opinions from stakeholders in the Education Industry indicate that there are still a lot to be put in place if truly schools in Nigeria must resume in the next one week.
A major consideration is the fact that the West African Examinations Council’s is insisting on its COVID-19 protocols for schools during exams.
The Head of the Nigeria National Office of WAEC, Patrick Areghan, had on 7 July in a press conference said “Schools must provide wash-hand buckets with running water, soaps, hand sanitisers and thermometer hand-gun to check the temperature of all concerned.
WAEC further noted that “All examination functionaries, including the council’s staff on distribution; supervisors; invigilators, inspectors; candidates and school officials will be required to wear face masks, wash and sanitise their hands daily and throughout the duration of the examination.”
The council’s spokesman, Mr. Demianus Ojijeogu, told journalists on Monday after the virtual meeting that the position of the council on COVID-19 protocols during exams had not changed.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government itself doubts the possibility of schools reopening next week when it tried to clarify that the resumption of SSS3 pupils would depend on the state of preparedness of each of the exam centres.
The Minister of State (Education), Emeka Nwajiuba, who made the clarifications in Abuja stated that “We arrived at this decision having met with all the stakeholders. Part of what they will update us with on Friday will be for them to report back, their state of preparedness. The state of preparedness of each of these centres will inform how they open.
“I am in discussion with the Minister of Environment. Wherever we see gaps in the state of preparedness, we will address. If it is not possible, we will not allow them (pupils) to use them (the centres).
In the midst of it, the National Union of Teachers, NUT is not certain the Federal Government can ensure the the provision of running water and the PPE for pupils and teachers ahead of school reopening.
Secretary General, of the NUT Dr. Mike Ike-Ene, who listed demands of the union, said, “Disinfecting schools, fumigation, provision of consumables and non-consumables, running water through buying of tanks; these are the things we clamoured for.
He continued “Most of the commissioners at the stakeholders’ meeting today all boasted that they had 90 per cent of everything needed to provide safety measures for the teachers and pupils, but we want to remind them that talk is cheap. It is important they do the needful. The reality is all these things should be ready so that both students and teachers will be safe. This is one of the reasons we agreed to writing the examination.”
Similarly, All Nigeria Confederation of Principals of Secondary Schools, ANCOPSS wants the Federal Government to provide PPE for both teachers and pupils before the planned resumption.
National President, ANCOPSS, Anslem Izuagie, told journalists on Monday that there was nothing on the ground as regards the PPE.
With the demands of WAEC, NUT and ANCOPSS as well as the doubts expressed by the Minister of Education himself, one would wonder if the reopening of schools in the next one week is possible in a country which has fallen short of expectations in many aspects of the fight against COVID-19
What magic can be produced to provide running water and PPE’s for students and teachers within the next few days in a country that has practically neglected the development of its educational sector over the years?
Are there enough PPE’s for medical workers in COVID-19 isolation centres, so much so that we can begin to consider some for schools? Should the Federal Government be fair enough to release any funds for this project, will the worm of corruption not swallow such allocation? And should we fail to meet WAEC protocols, will the council bend its demands?
As the NUT clearly points out “talk is cheap” and especially when the answers are already embroiled in the questions raised.