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Partial schools reopening: Excitement, anxiety as students resume

•COVID-19 test certificate compulsory in Ogun

As the countdown to the partial reopening of schools nears zero hour, pupils in exit class, parents, teachers and others can hardly wait for the day to come.

 

This stems from the fact that the confusion which attended their nearly four months of staying at home due to the hurried shut down of schools in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic in March will soon end.

 

From Lagos to Kano, Owerri to Ilorin, Port Harcourt to Jos, the story is the same: “At least I can finally go and write the examination I have been endlessly preparing for,” an SSS 3 student of Nigeria Navy Secondary School (NNSS), said.

 

The Federal Government through the Minister of State for Education Emeka Nwajiuba last Monday announced that secondary schools would reopen across the country to enable those in exit class write the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSEC) which will start on Monday, August 17, 2020.

 

The resumption, he continued must be in strict compliance with the protocols of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on the curtailment of the spread of the coronavirus.

 

Sunday Telegraph investigations across six states of the federation revealed that even before the announcement, some schools had fully prepared, only waiting for the green light in order to enable them receive the students.

 

For instance, at St. Louis Secondary School, Akure, Ondo State, the management, led by the Principal, Mrs. Omobolanle Ayintete, has been engaged in preresumption activities ranging from meetings to teachers, with medical personnel on how to comply with the NCDC protocols.

 

From the school gate, down to the administrative block to other strategic points within the school, buckets of water, soap and alcohol-based hand sanitizers were placed in strategic places for washing of hands. Mrs. Ayintete said: “We’re ready to receive our students. We have done some cuttings.

 

We have bought sanitizers, face masks in case of students and teachers who may not have. “Even before the government closed the schools, we had prepared for the situation.

 

Then, we bought buckets so that they will be placed in strategic points in the school. I have held meetings with the school’s security officers and nurses on the usage of the infrared thermometers when receiving the students at the school gate. “We have also held meeting with executive committee members of the PTA and we’re speculating that it will be 25 students in each class.

 

“I’ve also instructed the HODs that only the WAEC examiners should be allowed to handle the SSS3 classes.” In Ogun State, the government has made it mandatory for returning students to take malaria and COVID-19 tests at government designated facilities in Okemosan, Abeokuta, Olabisi Onabanjo Teaching Hospital, Sagamu, Ogun State General Hospital, Ota.

 

“Part of the strong condition of admittance to school for boarding is the COVID – 19 certificate showing NEGATIVE,” Special Assistant to Governor Dapo Abiodun on Primary and Secondary education, Mrs. Ronke Soyombo, said in a statement on Friday.

 

Apart from the general guidelines which the NCDC issued, managements of schools have also devised their own means of implementing the guidelines. Navy Secondary School, Ogbomoso, Oyo State, in a notice on resumption sent to parents, which Sunday Telegraph sighted, the Commandant said: “Any sick student should not return to school until he is medically fit.

 

All students and items brought to school will be disinfected before students are allowed into the school, all returning students must have one bottle of sanitizer and two navy blue face masks, among others.

 

 

“The procedure for clearance shall be: Hand washing station at the gate where students would be expected to wash and sanitize their hands with soap and water, schools medical team for medical assessment as well as disinfection of students and items.

 

Students shall be shared to all four hostels to ensure minimum contact for the first 14 days, hugging and handshake would as much as possible be disallowed on the day of resumption and subsequent days.”

 

However, some parents still entertain fears that the measures being put in place may not prevent infections among students as witnessed in some countries which had to hurriedly close down the schools again.

 

“Have the schools been fumigated and have they been provided with all the wherewithal needed to prevent the spread of Covid-9 in schools?

Simeon Adeyemi, a parent in Ilorin asked. A teacher, who doesn’t want his name in print for fear of being sanctioned, however, felt that it was rather hasty to reopen schools now because the spike in the number of infected persons despite governments’ efforts to check the spread.

 

However, an elated teacher at Jepthah Comprehensive High School along the East/West Road, Port Harcourt, said that the long and compulsory holiday due to COVID-19 has taken its toll on both school proprietors and staff, hence the zeal to take the mandated steps to reopen.

“It’s been very tough since the pandemic emerged from nowhere. In our school, every step listed by government for reopening has been put in place,” she said.

 

For the proprietress of Reliance Primary and Secondary School, Owerri, Mrs. Rejoice Igwebuike, compliance with caution is the word. Igwebuike stated categorically that at the slightest indication of any risk factor that may endanger the lives of pupils she will not hesitate to shut down the school again.

 

Her words: “We shall comply with the Federal Government’s directive and reopen on the 4th of August, 2020 but I must state very clearly that at the slightest indication of any risk factor that could put the lives of children at risk, I will not hesitate or consult anybody before shutting down.”

 

In Ibadan, staff of Oba Akinbiyi Secondary School, Premier Area, Ibadan, who identified himself simply as Mr Kayode, said: “Our students are preparing for their WAEC examination? We have been coaching them while observing the necessary COVID-19 preventive protocols.

 

We cannot continue to stay at home and be left behind by other countries that are witnessing the same pandemic. We are not just starting in Oyo; we have started already and coping.”

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