Efforts of the Federal Government to curb the further spread of Coronavirus among the citizenry has been intensified with the development of Safe School Re-opening Readiness Template for safe school re-opening in the country.
Recently, the Federal Government mandated the Federal Ministry of Education (FME), Federal Ministry of Health in conjunction with the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and other allied bodies to develop an effective template as a guideline to arrest the spread of COVID -19 in Nigerian schools.
The vulnerability of students and pupils in basic and post-basic education to the virus warranted the Federal Government to encourage states to adopt a tested template in every school in the states.
For clarification and the need to intimate the state governments with the relevance of the developed template, a 2-day dialogue meeting was held with the states’ education policymakers and other education stakeholders in the states, which ran simultaneously in each of the six geo-political zones in Nigeria on Monday, was concluded yesterday. Oyo State Commissioner for Science and Technology, Olasunkanmi Olaleye,(a Barrister in law) played host to his counterparts drawn from the other five states in the south-west.
At the opening ceremony, the commissioner, in his welcome address, reiterated the commitment of the Oyo State Government to deploy all the necessary resources to end the transmission of coronavirus pandemic, in the school system and everywhere in the state.
While he commended the federal government, the UNICEF and NCDC for their commitments towards saving Nigerians from COVID- 19 epidemic Olaleye declared that it is high time Nigeria made its school system technological driven, stressing that E-learning procedure has become paramount in the education reform process.
Speaking in the same vein, The honourable Minister of State for Education, Chukuemeka, Nwajiuba, represented by Sunday Ogunkunle, a director in the ministry, stated that the zonal stakeholders’ dialogue on school reopening readiness for school resumption became inevitable for every education policymakers, at the state and local government levels, private school owners inclusive, to deliberate on the Safe School Readiness Template being developed by the Federal Ministry of Education, designed to be used as a guideline by every school in the country to safeguard the spread of the virus in our school system.
Abiodun Ogunniyi, who represented the National Centre for Disease Control, Abuja at zonal education stakeholders held in Oyo State, noted that compliance of every school in the country to COVID-19 control measures approved by NCDC is a fundamental key to control the spread of the virus, especially among the students in the country.
According to him, some guidelines on safe school re-opening strategies developed by the Federal Ministries of Education, Health, NCDC, UNICEF and Education in Emergencies Working Group Nigeria(EIEWGN) was brought to the meeting for a review at the state level to agree on the expected roles and responsibility at all levels of education from the document for its adoption by the state governments in their various schools.
While he enjoined the state governments to adhere to the guideline as stipulated by the template, he warned that adaptation of the template is very compulsory and that any schools that fail to comply with risked closure. He added that Child Assent form for COVID -19 Testing for students is unavoidable.
Also speaking in the same vein, Chairperson, Safe Schools Declaration Sub -Committee, Education In Emergencies Working Group Nigeria,(EIEWGN), Abiola Sanusi asserted that the dialogue was held to ensure that all the states in the federation are in the same page as regard school reopening readiness for the resumption of schools in Nigeria.
According to her, the success story of COVID -19 spread control in Nigerian schools would need the collaboration of parents, community leaders and all the allied stakeholders to arrest the situation.
The UNICEF representative at the meeting, Dr Murtala Muhammed declared that for the success of this school reopening readiness for the resumption and for smooth academic programme henceforth, school monitoring is essential to know what is happening at the school level and that government should reinvest into the education to meet the increasing financial needs of the schools
He also urged the government to develop a robust communication strategy to carry everybody in the system along.”E-learning is very relevance and inevitable because of the situation. There is need for government to involve the private sector, corporate bodies in the state to give their financial support towards the COVID-19 spread control in our school system. Also, the government should see to the teachers’ and students’ health welfare,” he said.