Implications of prolonged school closure
The federal government, last week, reversed its decision to reopen schools for the graduating students, saying it will rather miss an entire session than risk exposing children to the dreaded coronavirus disease.
This decision did not go down well with some Nigerians who are worried that the prolonged closure of school could mean losing an entire academic year.
This year’s Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations, SSCE, administered by WAEC was postponed indefinitely in April after it was earlier scheduled to commence in May because schools were shut down across the country in a bid to contain the spread of COVID 19.
But the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, announced to the media last week, that the exam will now take place between August 4 and September 5. He added that as soon the WAEC examination was concluded the NABTEB and NECO examinations would also follow, and advised states that were willing to have the examinations to make their schools available for revision classes.
The federal government had announced the reopening date of July 13 for graduating students in Primary Six, JSS 3 and SSS 3. He however warned that certain protocols have to be met and schools have to be decontaminated before they reopen.
However, the Minister of Education, Mal. Adamu Adamu, dismissed this claim, stressing that the schools will only open when government believes it’s safe for students. Consequently, he said Nigerian students would not participate in the public examination scheduled to commence on August 4.
While emphasising on government’s position on the matter, the Minister conveniently blamed the media for the earlier information on school resumption, stating that his deputy was quoted out of context.
In the words of the minister, “I don’t know whether you journalists are misquoting the Minister of State for Education or maybe quoting what WAEC said and made it into a story.”
He insisted that “Schools under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Education will not be opened on August 4 or anytime soon. Our schools will only open when we believe it’s safe for our children and that is when the situation is right, not when the incidence of the infection is going up in the nation.”
While we may query the seemingly policy summersault of the Federal Government on school resumption, we must commend the government for opting for a decision which is in the interest of the Nigerian child.
The corona virus as we know by now is a global pandemic has claimed high globally with a number of children being part of this statistics. It is therefore only right that children are protected in the best way possible.
Concerns about students losing an academic year should be the least of our problem, as the rate of new cases keeps soaring despite measures put in place to control the spread. Unfortunately the current rate of community transmission is a worrisome indication that confirmed cases will spike until and unless drastic measures are taken to check the trend.
Despite the advancement in their health sectors, countries like the United States of America and Brazil have the most record of over 4million confirmed cases between them and over 200,000deaths. For obvious reasons, Nigeria cannot afford to take this chance of watching the virus further spread as we do not have the where withal to handle a full blown outbreak if it occurs.
Though it it's obvious that the figures aren’t dropping any time soon, government has the responsibility of ensuring that the effects schools are made safe before they open again.
Most public schools as we know are usually over crowded, with some having more than 40 students in a classroom. Will the students be further shared into smaller groups, if yes, do the schools have the adequate number of teachers to go round the increased number of classrooms that will be created?
How do we also ensure that these children will obey safety protocols as stipulated by the presidential task force on Covid-19 when even adults have been found flouting basic rules of use of face mask and even maintaining physical distancing.
Most children are social being and so just one infected child can spread the virus across an entire school and they will extend similar ‘gesture’ to their homes.
It will therefore be in the best interest of the children and by extension, the entire country, if states reconsider their resumption date as the situation is not yet safe to have children gathering and interacting freely.
While it is still early to determine if Nigeria will be the only country to miss out on this year’s WAEC examinations, candidates should be encouraged with the fact that other public exams like NECO and GCE are still available for them to write. The national examination bodies should therefore adjust their calendar and come up with new time table that will factor in the times that we are in.
We appeal to parents and schools to support government’s decision of keeping all schools shuts as this is in the overall interest of our children. After all a healthy nation, they say, is a wealthy nation.