The Federal Government has disclosed that it is considering sectionalizing classes for primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions in the country ahead of school reopening. This was made known by the Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, on Wednesday during a briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja.
Also, the federal government and religious leaders have reached an agreement on proposals for the reopening of worship centres nationwide.
As the government made these considerations, the virus increased its victims by 389 to 8,733 with 2,501 persons discharged and 254 dead in 35 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
The 389 new cases are reported in 22 states with Kogi recording its first index case and one other. The other states are Lagos 256, Katsina 23, Edo 22, Rivers 14, Kano 13, Adamawa 11, Akwa Ibom 11, Kaduna seven, Kwara six, Nasarawa six, Gombe, Plateau, Abia, Delta, Benue, Niger and Oyo two each, while Imo, Borno, Ogun, and Anambra have one each.
Even as the World Health Organisation (WHO) has temporarily suspended clinical trials on Hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19, the federal government has insisted it would only make its decision based on the recommendations of the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and other government agencies researching on the drug.
This is coming as the government has suspended the evacuation of Nigerians stranded abroad until it unveils a new policy on evacuation next week.
Speaking Wednesday in Abuja during a press briefing by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, the Chairman of the task force and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, assured Nigerians that plans for the safe reopening of schools across the country would soon be unveiled.
“PTF has been deliberating on this situation and wish to inform Nigerians that the Federal Ministry of Education will roll out measures to be put in place for the safe reopening of our schools.
“The Hon. Minister of Education (State) will be elaborating on the subject, this afternoon. He will also clarify the purported announcement of the resumption date which went viral last week.”
Also speaking at the briefing, the Minister of State for Education, Mr. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, assured Nigerian children that all hands were on deck to reopen schools at a safe time and urged states, local governments, proprietors and other stakeholders to begin to take steps that would facilitate an early and safe reopening.
Nwajiuba said until the government is sure that children could go to school, and return safely without being infected, it would not take that risk of reopening the schools yet.
Nwajiuba disclosed that the announcement that schools would be reopening on June 8 did not emanate from the federal government, adding that the government would work with the guidance of experts and the World Health Organisation (WHO) before it reopens the schools.
He said the Federal Ministry of Education would publish post-COVID-19 guidelines for school reopening.
The minister said the government is working on a model to ensure that all the children do not return to their schools at the same time to ensure physical and social distancing as well as proper sanitation and hygiene at every school.
“We are going to publish a specification on what we expect COVID-19 or post-COVID-19 reopening to look like. We are not talking about coping with COVID-19 but in spite of COVID-19, we expect that we will adapt.
“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 order to allow children to go in.
“We may have classes in the morning and classes in the afternoon so that we will have the whole of the infrastructure divided, provided they can serve us. I am not sure we will have classes at night. But we can do with morning and afternoon for now,” he explained.
He added: “The plan entails adopting a two-shift system and allowing those who will write exams to return earlier than others. Use this period to upgrade skills and think of how to make their teachings impactful. Those running the secondary schools should think of what to do.
“We are looking at sanitary conditions of all the schools. SUBEB should use some of the monies we give them to upgrade sanitary conditions in schools. We are also looking at having sanitization booths working with NASENI. It is a forewarning to private and state governments to ensure that these things are put in place before schools can reopen.”
He urged state governments and owners of private schools to plan ahead on how to ensure maximum safety for students when the resumption plan is unveiled.