Abuja and Lagos — The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, says the Federal Government of Nigeria will not reopen schools as earlier decided in view of the rising cases of coronavirus in the country.
Adamu disclosed this to State House reporters on Wednesday after the virtual meeting of the Federal Executive Council, chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, had, on June 29 during a briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, announced the reopening of schools for Primary 6, JSS 3 and SSS 3 students to enable them to prepare for their examinations.
The Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, had, on Monday, reportedly said the 2020 West Africa Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) would hold from August 4 to September 5.
But Adamu on Wednesday, emphasised that schools would remain closed until it was certified that the situation was safe.
He said this was not the right time to open schools, adding that the government would not mind forfeiting the WASSC earlier scheduled to begin on August 4 in order to save the lives of students.
He said the West African Examinations Council could not determine the resumption date of schools for Nigeria.
Adamu said final year students preparing for the Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations would not be allowed to return to school contrary to earlier announcement.
He said: "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.
"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.
"I just want to make it clear.
"We'll not open soon for examination or for any reason, unless it is safe for our children, even WAEC. WAEC will not determine for us what we do. Schools will remain closed.
"Yesterday (Tuesday), we called on stakeholders who would tell us the situation and the way it should be done for it to be safe.
"While the meeting was going on, WAEC announced that they are starting examinations.
"Let's see who they're going to start with.
"I'll also like to use this position to ask those states that have already announced (reopening), I appeal to them.
"I think it is not safe.
"I feel responsible for all children, not just those who are in federal government-controlled schools.
"Please, let's save our children from this.
"One infected child is enough to infect a whole class.
"When they close from class they go into the dormitory, this is not the right time to open schools.
"I appeal to the states that have already announced to reconsider it."
Adamu, while reacting to the point that Nigeria will be the only country to miss out of the WAEC examinations, said: "I, as Minister of Education, if I'm given the chance, I don't mind Nigeria losing a whole school year than exposing our children to danger.
"WAEC is a parastatal of the Ministry of Education, they cannot determine for the government what it does."
School proprietors express shock
The spokesman of the WAEC, Demianus Ojijeogu, could not be reached on phone on Wednesday.
But the President of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools, Yomi Otubela, said: "It would be a thing of shock to stakeholders that the Federal Ministry of Education is calling off the examination after the West Africa Examination Council on Tuesday claimed that it had consulted widely before coming up with the date for the examination.
"The Minister of State for Education also said the same and we were invited to stakeholders' meeting with the minister where most Commissioners for Education were part of the virtual meeting including the WAEC, the NECO and others and modalities for the examinations were discussed extensively and the minister promised to get back to us.
"That in just 24 hours, the ministry will announce that the exam would no longer hold further confirms the way decisions are taken.
"In as much as I would not want to confirm the development yet, I am worried like every other Nigerian," he said.