Nigerian Govt Urges Vigilance, Says Another Lockdown Possible

stay home, quarantine, isolation, Covid-19
22 September 2020

As some states recalled students of primary and secondary schools back to classes, the federal government on Monday called for more vigilance to avert a possible resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schools have reopened in Lagos, Kano, Ekiti, Ogun, while many others have fixed dates for resumption.

The federal government noted that if care was not taken, the appreciable progress recorded may be eroded especially in the wake of schools resumption, the opening of the air space for international travels and relaxation of a number of restrictions with a view to improving the economy.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha said this in Abuja at the joint national briefing of the task force.

According to Mustapha, over the last one week, the scientific community had tried to explain some new manifestation of COVID-19 spread amidst continued reversal of gains in the battle mostly in countries around Europe, a development that prompted the World Health Organisation (WHO) to express some concerns.

Mustapha said that Israel had re-introduced a three-week lockdown, the United Kingdom was considering another lockdown phase and Spain was enforcing a partial lockdown in Madrid amidst protests by its citizens.

To buttress his point on the need for caution, the SGF said over the last three days, the global cases passed the 31 million marks, and it took only four days to get there from 30 million.

"Specifically, the lesson for us in Nigeria is that in spite of appreciable progress recorded, we should be vigilant more than ever before, because we have relaxed a number of restrictions in opening up more sectors of the economy and schools are beginning to open in varying degrees," he said.

He warned that the call became more pertinent in view of the noticeably increasing disregard for basic non-pharmaceutical measures that have proven very successful.

Mustapha lamented that face masks have been turned into chin masks, while social distancing and gatherings were returning to the pre-COVID- 19 era.

Daily Trust reports that states have been taking decisions on reopening schools at a time when some stakeholders including medical experts and some parents were expressing reservations.

They specifically expressed fears over a possible spike in COVID-19 cases especially in public schools where facilities for social distancing are in short supply.

Low turnout in Kano

There was a low turnout of teachers and students as the government recalled exit students in Kano ahead of the commencement of their final examination slated to begin next month.

When our reporters visited Rumfa College and Government Secondary school, Giginyu, only a few students were seen.

They attributed the poor turnout to heavy downpour.

At Giginyu Secondary school, a similar scenario was witnessed as only a few students and teachers turned up.

The state government said it had disinfected close to 500 schools and provided face masks to all exit students and will not hesitate to punish any school that violated the COVID-19 protocols.

Halima Idris, an SSS 2 student in Kano said she was eager to go back to school. "I am tired of staying at home," she said.

Salihu Khamis, a father of four, applauded the decision of the federal government. "We are happy that our children would go back to school after a long stay at home," he said.

Oyo queries five schools for noncompliance

At least five private and public schools were on Monday sanctioned by the Oyo State Government over non-compliance of extant guidelines for the resumption of schools in the state.

The Chairman, Oyo State Universal Basic Education Board, Dr. Nureni Aderemi Adeniran, who stated this during state-wide monitoring of schools in Ibadan, however, refused to give details of the affected schools.

During the compliance monitoring, Dr. Adeniran who led a team of management members from the Standard and Quality Assurance Department of the state's ministry of education frowned at the poor compliance by teachers and pupils in some schools.

Many of them were seen without facemasks and flouting social distancing instructions.

He said in some schools, the compliance level was not encouraging while teachers absconded in others leaving pupils flouting the extant guidelines.

Schools visited included Methodist Primary School, Agbeni; Islamic Mission School, Yemetu; Ratibi Muslim School, Molete, St. Bredan's Primary School, Kumapayi, Egbeda; Abadina Primary School, UI and St. Thomas Primary School I, II & III, Agbowo.

Also, public and private schools on Monday reopened in Ogun State amid low adherence to coronavirus safety guidelines by the students and teachers.

This came as parents expressed worry over the safety of their children.

The state government had two weeks ago ordered the reopening of schools after almost six months under lock and key as part of efforts to flatten the curve of COVID-19.

The government, however, directed that schools hours be staggered as follows for public schools: Primary 1 to primary 3 - 8.00 am to 11.00am, Primary 4 to Primary 6 - 12.00noon to 3.00pm, JSS 1 to JSS3 - 8.00am to 11.00am, SS1 to SS3 - 12.00noon to 3.00pm.

When our correspondent visited some schools, hundreds of students were seen at the entrances of their school premises with many of them flouting the COVID-19 protocols.

There was no provision for handwashing and sanitising in some of the schools.

At the Abeokuta Grammar School, Idi - Aba, it was observed that the two sanitising booths provided at the gate were faulty and as a result, thousands of students were allowed into the premises unchecked.

A parent of two students in the school, Mr. Ahmed Salau, told Daily Trust that it was not safe to reopen schools now following what he called "ill-preparation by the state government."

Another parent, Mr. Wale Ogunlaja bemoaned the high population of students in public schools, alleging that both government and school managements failed to prepare adequately for the resumption of students.

Many primary and secondary schools in Lagos State on Monday reopened for physical classes after about six months lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our reporters who monitored the reopening of schools in the state observed that many schools enforced the COVID-19 protocols given by the state ministry of education's office of education quality assurance.

At Government Senior and Junior College, Agege, the students observed social distancing as they queued to get their body temperature checked with e -infrared thermometer from where they proceeded to wash and sanitise their hands.

However, while the students adhered to safety protocols within their school premises, many of them were seen chatting and moving closer to each other without a face mask after school hours.

Students well-kitted in Ekiti

In Ekiti State, schools reopened for the commencement of their academic session after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students who left school about seven months were happy and joyful to return to school and meeting themselves again.

Some teachers who have been properly trained for the COVID-19 protocols were the ones receiving the students at the school's gates using the Infra-thermometers and directing them to wash their hands with soap and use hand sanitisers after wearing their face masks.

Stakeholders brainstorm in North East, North West

The Federal Ministry of Education in collaboration with Nigeria's Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) brainstormed on Monday in Bauchi on a template developed by the ministry for school reopening as part of efforts to ensure that safety measures are put in place in the six states of Northeast part of the country.

Speaking at the meeting tagged Zonal Stakeholders Dialogue on Readiness for School Resumption, the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba said that the template required the full engagement of all stakeholders for it to succeed.

"The template has some key roles and shared responsibilities to be played by the stakeholders at national, state, local government and at the school levels.

"Generally, through the concerted efforts of governments at all levels, there is a cautious belief and understanding that the pandemic curve has started flattening. This news provides the impetus for positive hope that things are getting better. Regrettably, learners have lost a lot of grounds as far as education is concerned," he said.

In his remark, the UNICEF Chief of Field Office, Bauchi, Bhanu Pathak said that since the closure of schools across the 36 states as a result of COVID 19, millions of school children and their teachers remained at home saying, "to achieve the objective of ensuring a safe return to school, all efforts must focus to ensure that schools have a protective environment and set up points for temperature screening including hygiene facility at the entrance of the school and other strategic places."

In Kano, the Federal Ministry of Education and the seven states in the North West met, deliberated and adopted a developed a template for the safe re-opening of schools and learning facilities.

The meeting, which was at the instance of Girls Education Project (GEP), an 8- year project managed by UNICEF and funded by Foreign Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO), had in attendance the minister of state for education, all the state's commissioners of education, health and other relevant stakeholders.

Governor Abdullahi Ganduje represented by his Deputy, Nasir Gawuna said the administration had already put in place some mechanism for reopening of its schools, which included disinfection of premises and provision of PPE's for both teachers and students.

Speaking on happenings in the education sector, the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, said, "As schools begin to reopen in some areas, I urge caution and adherence to the protocols and advisories for reopening schools in order join us to prevent COVID surge.

"COVID-19 is with us for the foreseeable future, as DG of WHO has advised, with no definitive cure in sight. People are still being infected and are dying from it.

"It is important to stress that even though adults especially those 60 years and above are more vulnerable, complications do occur in all age groups. Records show that 10 per cent of all positive cases we have treated are below the age of 19 years," he said.

However, an effort to speak with the Secretary-General of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Dr. Mike Ene, was not successful as he neither picked calls nor reply the text message, which sought to know the latest position of the union on recent developments.

Prior to the resumption of the exiting students to commence their WASSCE, Ene had told Daily Trust that they agreed to the resumption of schools after getting reports from state governments who were given marching orders to meet up with some protocols.

"Commissioners were called upon to give us their readiness in the resumption of schools. After they gave their reports it became clear that the states said they were ready," he said.

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