Nigeria: COVID-19 - Nigerian Govt Releases New Guidelines for Resumption of Schools

Nigerian Education Minister Adamu Adamu.

The federal government has released guidelines ahead of the resumption of schools at every level in the country.

The guidelines for the safe reopening of schools and learning facilities after the COVID-19 pandemic outlined actions, measures, and requirements needed for resumption.

In the document released by the federal ministry of health and the National Centre for Disease Control education emergencies working group and signed by the minister of education, Adamu Adamu, on Monday, the federal government said learners should be supported to stay two metres apart.

However, the government did not disclose when schools will resume.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the closure of schools and other learning facilities since March. PREMIUM TIMES reported how the federal government reversed its earlier announcement on the resumption of schools.

The minister of state for education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, also announced during a media briefing on July 6 that WAEC examination will take place between August 4 and September 5.

But Mr Adamu last week said no Nigerian school will participate in examinations earlier scheduled for August 5 to September 5.

This year's examination was postponed indefinitely in April after it was earlier scheduled to commence in May.

New guidelines

The 52-page document also showed that where the two-meter rule cannot be reasonably applied, other risk mitigation strategies may be adopted. "Examples include early years, younger primary school children, and those with additional needs".

"The scenarios require organising learners and children into small groups with consistent membership and compliance to the risk mitigation strategies. The membership of these groups should not change unless the NCDC public health guideline suggests otherwise," the document reads in part.

The document also revealed that the government will conduct a rapid assessment and determine funding requirement for upgrading infrastructure and facilities to sustain prescribed safe school reopening requirements.

The document said it was time for the education sector to plan and address the eventual safe reopening of schools and learning facilities.

Among the guidelines are recommendations for the review of existing policies, practices, and risk mitigation strategies in the use of schools for other purposes, such as distance learning centres, temporary shelters, isolation, quarantine and treatment centres, markets, voting centres, among others.

"As a responsible government, it is also our duty to provide comprehensive guidelines for a safe and hitch-free reopening of schools and learning facilities. We do so knowing that the health, safety, and security of learners, teachers, education personnel, and families are priorities," the document reads in part.

The document recommended what government called, "systematic, phased, safe reopening that factors resource availability to meet basic requirements and differentials in COVID-19 effect (e.g., fumigation and disinfection of schools; provision of learning material; impact and vulnerabilities across schools, learning facilities, communities, localities, local governments, and states)."

The minister also said safety and hygiene measures outlined in the document "should be followed carefully."

"It is imperative that safe distancing between adult staff working with such groups be maintained," the document reads.

Safe distancing, staggered attendance, others

While considering what it called "Alternative Learning models for safe distancing", the government said schools must implement safe distancing measures that minimize and isolate risks. "As such, they may offer some alternative learning models," it explained.

"Outdoor learning can limit transmission and also allows for safe distancing between learners and teachers. The use of shelter outdoors is necessary for the protection and safety of learners and teachers. In addition, safety in all weathers and security measures are required for each location."

Speaking on staggered attendance, the document said "learners may arrive and depart at different times to avoid overcrowding; schools may reopen gradually (e.g., starting with particular grade levels)."

On alternate attendance, the document said schools may alternate attendance days per week, "with learners at the secondary level (or equivalent) and above having fewer in-person classes".

"Learners can better manage independent learning (e.g., junior secondary school learners attend on Tuesdays and Thursdays while primary school learners attend classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays)."

The document also said classes may be divided into morning and afternoon shifts.

Speaking on 'decreased interaction', the document said learners may remain in one location "with teachers coming to them."

"In addition, lessons may be delivered more holistically to take into account various learning environments for in-person learning (indoor, outdoor) and various media for distance learning (printed materials, online, TV, and radio). Learners may have allocated time learning in each of these environments to reduce the burden placed on indoor facilities."

Closing and reopening

The document said gradual and phased reopening can be considered while prioritising learners who are vulnerable, have reduced access to distance learning modalities, and/or are in examination classes.

"The following steps and actions should be taken before schools and learning facilities are reopened to safeguard health and ensure safety and security of learners, teachers, administrators, and other education personnel," it warned.

The document said all facilities must be fumigated.

The government also promised to deploy new and existing resources to recruit additional teachers and education personnel to guarantee prescribed safe distancing and teacher-learner ratio.

"We will establish and adequately equip dispensaries and clinics as appropriate. We will reate adequate classrooms and learning spaces to maintain safe distancing in schools; provide better-ventilated classrooms and TLCs-use solar power and alternative energy sources for electricity, and boreholes for water."

The government said it will train teachers, administrators, and other education personnel on safety and hygiene measures.

It also explained that more than 1.5 billion children and young people globally have been affected by school and university closures.

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