States divided over plan to review school resumption

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By Frank Ikpefan, Abuja; Nwanosike Onu, Awka; Ernest Nwokolo, Abeokuta; AbdulGafar Alabelewe, Kaduna; Kolade Adeyemi, Jos; Adekunle Jimoh, Ilorin; David Adenuga, Bauchi; Justina Asishana, Minna; Gbenga Omokhunu, Abuja; Sunny Nwankwo, Umuahia; AbdulGafar Alabelewe, Kaduna; Chris Njoku, Owerri, Kofoworola Belo-Osagie and Ogochukwu Anioke, Abakaliki

  • Private school owners meet today
  • ‘January 18 yet to be evaluated’

States are divided over Federal Government’s plan to review school resumption date, following the spike in COVID-19 cases across the country.

The proposed review has been given different interpretations by the states, which have announced different resumption dates for public schools.

There is no uniform resumption date for public schools in Nigeria, according to findings by our correspondents.

The Federal Government said it had not postponed school resumption indefinitely. Thus, most schools are preparing to resume on January 18 as directed by the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19.

On Monday, Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, while answering questions from reporters, said the January 18 resumption date was “subject to review.”

Spokesman of the Federal Ministry of Education, Ben Goong, told our correspondent that the minister’s comment was misinterpreted.

“If today or tomorrow, the task force says: ‘From what we have seen on the field, everybody should stay at home,’ then, the date can be reviewed at any time.”

Some states permitted the reopening of schools on January 4. A few resumed on last Monday, while others are on course to resume on January 18.

on Tuesday, the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS) said it would meet today to take a position on the school resumption in the light of the review proposed by the Federal Government.

Its National president, Chief Yomi Otubela, said in a statement that the group had been consulting with stakeholders on the matter.

“Given the information credited to the Minster of Education regarding the proposed review of resumption date of janurary 18 2021 for schools in the country due to the resurgence of COVID-19, we wish to announce that the National Executive Council (NEC) of the Association is equally aware of the negative impact of the impending decision on the education sector, existing loans, investment by stakeholders, mental health of children, teachers, proprietors, parents, vendors, should the government should down the school again.

“As a result of this, the NEC has been consulting with relevant authorities to ensure a positive outcome for private schools in the country just as we are aware that schools in some states had already reopened.

Founder of the Concerned Parents and Educators’ Network, a group of over 150,000 educators and parents nationwide, Mrs. Yinka Ogunde, said resumption should be premised on what the COVID-19 data.  She said if there is an increase, resumption could be delayed for one or two weeks.

“I don’t have the statistics to work with.  If they decide to work with data and statistics they will make the best decision.  It all boils down to safety.  We need to know the kind of trends that we are looking at in order to be able to make a proper decision.

“It is just like the position we were in when we were about to open.  If they see that the trends do not support to open, one can say maybe we should postpone resumption for a week or two to observe.  It is a time for us to mask up and take responsibility,” she said.

States’ resumption plans 

Anambra State government has shifted the resumption date to January 26.

Governor Willie Obiano, in a broadcast, said: “Schools in Anambra shall not reopen on January 18, 2021, as earlier scheduled.

“Rather, schools will re-open after two weeks from today to enable the principals and teachers to prepare for the return of our children.”

Kaduna State Government said it would announce a resumption date only when it deems it safe for pupils to return.

Commissioner of Education Dr Shehu Usman Muhammad told The Nation: “The state government will review the state of COVID-19 cases before fixing a date for resumption.”

Plateau State Commissioner of Information Mr Dan Manjang said schools will resume on January 18.

“The state government will do all we can to ensure the safety of our students in both public and private schools,” he said.

Kwara State government said its January 18 resumption date remained unchanged.

Governor AbdulRaman Abdulrazaq’s spokesperson, Rafiu Ajakaye, said: “The position of the state government on the resumption of schools has not changed as of January 12.”

Bauchi State said there was no going back on its January 18 resumption date.

Commissioner for Education, Dr Aliyu Tilde, said: “Till date, not a single case of COVID-19 infection is reported in our schools.

“Therefore, regardless of any review that may take place in some quarters, Bauchi State Ministry of Education is determined to reopen schools in the state on January 18 unfailingly, as earlier decided by the State Executive Council.

“The 2020/2021 school calendar starts that day. Unless we stand resolute on our school plan for the year, the session will be mutilated by fear of COVID-19 as was 2019/2020.”

The Ebonyi government shifted the resumption of schools till January 18.

Commissioner for Education, Dr Onyebuchi Chima, said: “The resumption of academic activities in Ebonyi schools has been shifted to January 18 as against the initial resumption date of January 4.”

The state government plans to deploy two nurses to each public schools ahead of resumption.

Niger State government said that it would follow the directive of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 on the resumption of schools.

Public schools in Abia State are yet to resume.

The state government had earlier stated that schools would resume on January 11.

Commissioner for Education, Kanaelechi Nwangwa, did not pick his call or respond to a text message sent to him, but our correspondent observed that private schools in Umuahia and Aba resumed on January 11.

The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) is awaiting directives from the Federal Government.

Head of Information, FCT Education Secretariat, Kabiru Musa, told our correspondent: “No update yet. We are waiting for Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 to give a further announcement.”

Universities announce dates 

The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) asked its chapters in all tertiary institutions to set up COVID-19 task force teams.

The students’ body urged the Federal Government and members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to resume for academic activities on January 18

NANS President Sunday Asefon said in a statement: “Rather than postpone schools’ resumption, it has become imperative to address the alarming spread of COVID-19 and rising cases of deaths from a position of environmental strategy and human coordination since the lockdown mechanism can no longer be a mitigating option in the face of our economic reality.

“The Federal Government is immediately urged to rethink its approach and take only actions that can get more Nigerians into coordinated and regulated systems, like schools and offices, where hours of wearing face masks and complying with COVID-19 safety protocols can be guaranteed to curb the spread.”

The Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, has fixed January 25 as resumption date.

It, however, said the announcement is subject to further directives that may be issued by the Federal and Kaduna State governments.

Director of Public Affairs, Mal. Auwalu Umar, said in a statement: “The 2019/2020 academic session would be completed based on the adjusted calendar as approved by the Senate.”

The Federal University of Agriculture (FUNAAB), Abuja, said it was ready to resume on January 18 and deploy physical and virtual classes.

The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Felix Kolawole Salako, said the university has enough internet-based facilities and physical structures to implement the hybrid method.

The nation

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