The Federal Government of Nigerian has announced the lifting of the inter-state lockdown. The announcement was made by the Secretary to the State Government (SGF), Boss Mustafa, after president Buhari was briefed by the Presidential Task Force (PTF), on the progress the country has made in its fight against COVID-19 so far. The new directive will take effect from July 1st, 2020, in accordance with the curfew restrictions.
The SGF also said that the eased lockdown has been extended by another four weeks, which will take effect from June 30 through July 27, 2020.
Also, the directive gives schools the permission to carry out skeletal function for graduating students of primary and secondary schools. The students given the permission to resume school activities are primary 6 students who are to write Common Entrance Examination, Junior Secondary School 3 and Senior Secondary School 3 students.
Mustapha said that schools will open only on the condition that every cautionary protocol, including wearing of masks and social distancing will be followed.
The National Coordinator of Presidential Task Force, Sani Aliyu, added that all other school activities in Nigeria remain closed until further notice.
“For educational activities, all daycares and primary schools to remain closed till further evaluation.
“Schools are encouraged to continue with e-learning and visual teachings, but pupils may proceed to take the National Common Entrance as soon as it’s feasible, provided there is compliance with issued non-pharmaceutical interventions.
“For secondary and tertiary institutions, all schools to remain closed till further evaluation.
“Arrangement is to be made for exiting graduation students in JSS3 and SSS3 to resume at both boarding and day schools as soon as possible for intensive revision exercises.
“All educational establishments are to conduct exhaustive reviews to ensure compliance with the issued guidelines on COVID-19 before they open up for this purpose. Just to clarify, they will open up only for the purpose of exiting students.
“Arrangement is to be made for students taking part in the NABTEB exam, WAEC, exam, NECO exam respectively. All schools must comply with the six recommended steps to be issued by the Federal Ministry of Education before an institution is reopened in the timeline to be provided,” he said.
However, many said that reopening of schools in any kind of way now is premature, and are worried it would expose students to the virus as most of the schools fall short of the needed facilities that will ensure safety.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) said on Monday that the federal government’s plan to reopen the schools is suicidal. ASUU National President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, said the government needs to provide the ideal environment and meet the conditions spelt out by the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) before schools could be reopened across the country.
“The Federal Government must lead and show the ways by meeting the conditions for reopening of schools before any school can be allowed to open because COVID-19 pandemic is a health challenge.
“When it comes to public health, it is something that should not be left in the hands of individuals but the Federal Government must take the lead,” he said.
The conditions for reopening schools include the provision of materials for regular hand washing, provision of facemasks, isolation spaces, hand sanitizers and PPEs. According to the ASUU president, most government owned schools lack the capacity to provide these materials, making it difficult for the schools to make safety measures practical.
It could be recalled that lack of PPEs in the hospitals for frontline medical workers, was among the reasons Nigerian doctors went on strike earlier in the month. Many believe that if the government finds it difficult to provide protective equipment for frontline workers, students will not be an exception.
Prof. Ogunyemi said: “It is suicidal to reopen schools now if the Federal Government itself could not meet the conditions spelt out by the NCDC and the World Health Organization. The nation will expose innocent children to avoidable risks.”
Schools in Nigeria have been closed since March, and the federal government’s eagerness to get students back to school has been frontal. But the risk involved is alarming as the number of cases in Nigeria has continued to increase.
As of June 30, 2020, Nigeria has recorded 25,133 confirmed cases resulting in 573 deaths. Given the low testing capacity of the NCDC, it is believed that there are more infected people than are recorded, and opening of schools now, however, will be disastrous.