…says reopening’ll be in phases
…recommends distant learning, satellite centres
Barely a week after reversing its decision on reopening of schools for graduating students, the Federal Government has released guidelines for the resumption of the various levels of schools and learning facilities in the country.
The guidelines were developed by the Federal Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Federal Ministries of Environment and Health as well as health safety experts, putting into cognisance the possibility that the COVID-19 pandemic may not be gone any time soon.
However, the guidelines failed to disclose when schools would resume, as it only outlined actions, measures, and requirements needed for safe reopening of schools.
Notable among the items in the guidelines were recommendations for the review of existing policies, practices, and risk mitigation strategies in the use of schools for other purposes, such as distance learning centres, temporary shelters, isolation, quarantine and treatment centres, markets, and voting centres, among others.
The guideline, which was signed by the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu and Minister of State for Education, Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, and released to newsmen yesterday in Abuja, stressed that there would be a systematic, phased and safe reopening of schools, after they were fumigated and disinfected.
According to the document, government would conduct a rapid assessment and determine the funding requirement for upgrading infrastructure and facilities such as classrooms, furniture, water, sanitation and hygiene as well as Information Communication Technology (ICT) facilities to meet and sustain prescribed safe school reopening requirements.
The document read: “As a responsible government, it is also our duty to provide comprehensive guidelines for a safe and hitch-free reopening of schools and learning facilities.
We do so knowing that the health, safety and security of learners, teachers, education personnel and families are priorities.
“Our aim is to identify and strengthen programmes that will guarantee the recovery of learning gaps resulting from the pandemic. The goal of the guideline is to support and facilitate prompt and safe achievement of the objectives of the Nigeria Education Sector COVID-19 Response Strategy.
“The availability of these guidelines and implementation of its recommendations will ensure that all stakeholders within the educational system have a sense of their rights and responsibilities.
In addition, this will help learners, teachers, parents, guardians, communities and the larger society to trust the process of reopening and be assured that learning will continue in a safe and protective environment.”
The ministers further insisted that schools and learning facilities must implement safe distancing measures that minimize and isolate risk by offering some alternative learning models.
“Outdoor learning can limit transmission and also allow for safe distancing between learners and teachers.
The use of shelter outdoors is necessary for the protection and safety of learners and teachers. In addition, safety in all weathers and security measures are required for each location. “Learners may arrive and depart at different times to avoid overcrowding; schools may reopen gradually, starting with particular grade levels.
“Schools may alternate attendance days per week, with learners at the secondary level or equivalent and above having fewer inperson classes, since these learners can better manage independent learning e.g. junior secondary school learners attend on Tuesdays and Thursdays while primary school learners attend classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays,” the government said.
The ministers said, “classes may be divided into morning and afternoon shifts,” adding that lessons may be structured in a way that reduces the need for learners and staff to move between the different areas of the premises.
Furthermore, the government has promised to mobilize and deploy new and existing resources to recruit additional teachers and education personnel to guarantee prescribed safe distancing teacher-learner ratio, equip and resource schools for improved teaching and learning methods for special needs learners as well as provide WASH facilities including soap, hand sanitizers, and girls’ dignity kits in schools.