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Reopening Of Schools In Nigeria: Stakeholders Should Be Mindful Of The Risks

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By Richardson Ogwezzy
The issues of school reopening have always been the pressing demands of the public after a long period of shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Nigerians are feeling that since business activities, worship centres, many government offices etc have fully resumed work, schools in the country should follow suit. Not knowing that in the case of COVID-19, educational sector cannot in any way be likened to other sectors, based on the fact that a very large population of students, from different walks of life, from all parts of the world, with different backgrounds.

The agitation of school reopening is greater among proprietors of schools, simply because school business is one of their major sources of income and perhaps, a lot of them operate in expensive rented buildings that must be paid for, whether schools reopen or not. On the part of the students they are not comfortable with the situation because they feel it is a draw back on their academic pursuits. These are the mostly affected people.

The clamour for quick reopening of schools is good, because the longer the shut down, the more devastating effects on students, parents, stakeholders of education and the country in general. As a result of constant pressure on the Federal Government to reopen schools by concerned citizens, organisations, religious bodies and organized labour, the government has reluctantly agreed to pilot test school reopening by allowing students to write their West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE). Observations have shown that within two weeks of the examination, many students contracted the disease in spite of all the preventive measures put in place to check the spread of the virus before, during and after the examinations. The question is, if writing WASSCE gave room for greater spread of the infection, What will be the rate of infection if all institutions of learning in Nigeria are reopened?

The joy of Nigerians over the Coronavirus pandemic is that, its attendant high tension and intimidating fear seem to have dwindled into a lull. The panic associated with the high daily records of new infections is no longer a threat to Nigerians. We all know that the case of COVID-19 will one day fizzle out of existence. However, instead of re-opening schools, it seems more cognitive, imperative and wiser in the face of clinical data for government to provide enabling environment that will guarantee students’ safety before reopening schools. The extent of government readiness to provide preventive measures and possibility of such measures yielding good results should be a determining factor to re-opening of schools. This will be in the best interest of the nation. As a matter of fact, providing preventive measures should not be left alone to government. It should be the duty of all stakeholders of education. It is the duty of parents to educate their children on how to adhere to the preventive measures. In the ongoing WAEC examination, if I may ask, how many students are adhering to the sitting arrangement or the use of face mask? Parents must ensure that they inculcate the preventive measures ethics in their children and provide them with Covid-19 kits. It is also the duty of all students to always ensure that they are conscious of the infection.

The government should not fail to liaise with the various school authorities for effective application of the preventive measures, bearing in mind that students’ population as far as such measures are concerned will be difficult to manage. There is also the inherent danger that when schools reopen many students will travel from far and near even Covid-19 prone countries to Nigeria. How can we reconcile such issues? Apart from that, students population are relatively so much for Covid-19 preventive measures to be administered effectively in Nigeria.

In my personal opinion, if the records of NCDC is actually realistic and something to go by and in as much as schools must reopen as soon as possible, stakeholders of education in Nigeria should be mindful, be at alert and apt to respond to emergent cases of infection, since the rate of Infection on students writing examination within few weeks has given a red signal. I feel the lives of students should be of paramount importance because life has no duplicate. I think Nigerians should think of students’ lives and the country’s safety rather than re-opening. This is because educational certificates can be acquired at anytime. It is even our hope that Covid-19 will soon fizzle out or become like treatable sickness like malaria or become part of us in no distant time by God’s grace.

Richardson Ogwezzy is a Statistician, Edu. Administrator as well as a Ph.D candidate of Delsu, Abraka, Nigeria

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