Lagos State government’s decision to rely on advice from the Federal Government as well as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in determining when to reopen schools in the state is the right and proper thing to do.
The state’s commissioner for education, Folashade Adefisayo, said the state government was discussing with the Federal Government to arrive at a date. The two governments are however being guided by the NCDC.
Speaking while highlighting the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration’s plans for education during an online discussion tagged ‘Covinspiration Show’, to keep the public abreast of the administration’s activities in the last one year, the commissioner said the decision to reopen the schools cannot be unilateral because COVID-19 affects the entire country, and indeed the whole world.
“We are watching the behaviour of the pandemic to see what happens next and we are working with the Federal Government on the reopening of the schools in the country. This is not a decision that any state can unilaterally take on its own.
If we are certain that the children are safe, we will reopen the schools for learning to resume”, Adefisayo said. She added that “After the protocol is completed and health officials assure us that the coast is clear, we will give the schools some days to adjust their premises in accordance with the guidelines on commencement of academic activities”.
It could not have been better said. Indeed, this is the appropriate model that all state governments should adopt. This is not a matter to be emotive or partisan about. Coronavirus is no respecter of political party or status.
It has consumed some of the high and mighty in many parts of the world, including Nigeria, and some of them were only lucky to have returned home after being treated for the novel virus and discharged.
COVID-19 has brought about some of the world’s worst devastations in recent times, in terms of its human casualties and socio-economic disruptions, barely five months after it surfaced in Wuhan, China, in December, last year. And the world is still counting its losses because there seems no end in sight yet, especially with a cure still elusive.
Although economic and other activities are being unlocked globally after periods of lockdown, Nigeria inclusive, we know we are not there yet to throw our school gates open for resumption. Coronavirus is at the community transmission stage in the country, hence the spiralling increase in the number of confirmed cases nationwide.
Lagos has to be particularly concerned because it is the epicenter of the infection in Nigeria, and understandably so.
The state is Nigeria’s industrial hub; it is also a melting pot of sort, as it plays host to many Nigerians from other parts of the country, due to its many economic opportunities.
We don’t have to expose our most vulnerable segments to avoidable risks. As we know, children will always be children.
They love to play together, and there is danger in this, as social distancing is one of the main points stressed by experts as one of the ways to avoid coronavirus. Children’s inquisitive nature can easily expose them to the virus.
We need to avoid stories that touch the heart; hence the need to be extra-cautious in reopening schools, whether at the nursery, primary, secondary or even tertiary level. Some of the undergraduates now are babies by the standards of the immediate past. So, caution is the word all round.
This would appear to be the Federal Government’s guiding principle on the matter. Hence, it is considering sectionalising classes for all the tiers, before talking of reopening schools.
Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, disclosed on May 27 during a briefing by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 in Abuja that there may be morning and afternoon sessions when the schools resume.
“We are going to publish a specification on what we expect the reopening to look like. For a country that has over 115,000 primary schools, you will understand that 35,000 of these who are private must agree to set up the same standard in other to allow children to go in”.
We leave state governments that have been acting as islands unto themselves on COVID-19 with the words of wisdom by the minister: “Until we are sure these children can go to school, return safely and not put those who are more susceptible than them at risk, then we are running a huge risk and God forbid, in our hurry, something happens to our children, I am not sure anybody will be able to retrieve what has been lost.”