COVID-19: Edo Schools, Parents Struggle To Meet School Resumption Requirements

Despite the Federal Government’s directives that exit classes in secondary schools should reopen on August 4, preparations are on low gear in Edo State as stakeholders harbour mixed feelings.

The Ministry of Education, on Tuesday, said the decision was reached at a virtual consultative meeting between the Federal Ministry of Education and  the 36 state governments,  Nigerian Union of Teachers, proprietors of private schools and chief executive officers of examination bodies.

The ministry further stated that students would have two weeks to prepare for the West African Examination (WAEC), organised Senior School Certificate Examinations, scheduled to start on August 17, 2020.

“Secondary schools in the country are to reopen as from the 4th of August, 2020 for exit classes only.

”It was agreed that the exit classes should resume immediately after the Sallah break, from August 4, 2020 to enable them prepare for WAEC examinations which will commence on August 17, 2020,” the ministry announced.

HumAngle reports that in March, schools across the country were ordered to shut  down to curb the spread of COVID-19. 

The closure saw some schools conduct classes online for students to enable them to cover the curricula. 

Following the announcement to reopen for the exit class students, most schools, parents and the children are displeased over what they described as “a very close date with no solid plan”.

Schools are not ready

When HumAngle visited some schools around  Edo state, most had no officials in sight and the premises  were unkempt and overgrown with grass.

However, the level of preparation differs between public and private schools with the former  mostly showing no sign of preparation to resume. 

There is very low sign of resumption at Annunciation Catholic College,  Irrua, Ambrose Alli University Secondary School, Ekpoma, and several other public schools in the state.

Teachers who spoke with HumAngle admitted that they were not ready to resume, given the strain of the lockdown and the short notice.

Pius Aigbomian, a public school teacher, said: “They cannot just give us one week and ask us to return to the classroom and then give us just a few weeks to get these children ready for WAEC.

“There is a lot to put in place and school has been completely closed since they asked us to go home. The time is too short and I fear we won’t be able to prepare the children properly,” he said.

A private school teacher, Felicia Ebhohon, echoed his thoughts but noted that she and her colleagues were required to teach their students virtually during the lockdown. 

She told HumAngle that she was already exhausted from the process and could not figure out what just two weeks of physical teaching could do for the students.

“When we heard that schools were being reopened, we assumed it would be a while but what can children learn in two weeks that will prepare them for an exam like WAEC?” she asked.

HumAngle also gathered that although the level of unpreparedness cut across the public and private schools, the latter showed more signs of reopening.

A school proprietor, Blessing Osadolor, said, “We are relieved that this shows signs that they might open the entire school soon.

“It has been tough managing everything online and paying teachers. Most parents refused to pay last term’s fees because it was virtual learning.

“You cannot blame them, most of them did the work anyway since they had to supervise at home,” she said.

Her statement reflects the position of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS) which has commended the Federal Government for approving the reopening of secondary schools.

In a statement on Tuesday, NAPPS President Yomi Otubela, said the news was cheering for students, parents, teachers, school owners and other stakeholders.

The body thanked the ministers at the Ministry of Education for their roles and  for listening to the concerns of stakeholders about the closure of schools.

NAPPS promised to take safety as a priority by ensuring that staff, students and visitors adhered strictly to the safety protocols of  COVID-19. 

Osadolor admitted that the time for preparation was short but advised  students in the exit classes to maximise the time. 

COVID-19 precautions

While students worry about catching up on their learning, some parents expressed fear  over the safety of their wards from the pandemic.

HumAngle reports that Edo State residents also have interesting levels of awareness for COVID-19.

In the urban areas, there is ample awareness although the adherence to safety precautions is lukewarm.

Meanwhile, most residents in rural areas of Edo believe the virus infection is a fluke and does not exist in the state.

But those who understand that the pandemic is real expressed anxiety over  the safety of their children and letting return to school  with the infection rising everyday.

A parent, Philip Momoh, said, “I don’t see how it makes sense to ask children to resume for only two weeks.

“Nobody has mentioned how the children will cope or the safety measures 

to be employed during the exams. Do we need to take the risk?” he asked.

For Omoye Abhulimen, who has a set of twins in the exit class, the children returning to schools was not too necessary as they had  been having classes online.

She said, “I will need to confirm the COVID-19 protocol from their schools before letting them resume but really, it does not seem like schools are going to resume next week, anyway.”

To mitigate COVID-19 spread, some private schools provided hand washing buckets around but could not give concrete plans for students’ personal safety.

An official at Ogunbor High School, Benin City, told HumAngle that the students did not need to come in with hand sanitisers and masks as the school would  provide them.

Like others, there was no further plan on spacing or ways to keep the students safer in their classes.

Public and private students divide

With the exams slated for August 17, most public school students who spoke with HumAngle were unsure that they would be able to pass.

Compared with some of their private school counterparts, a lot of them had no access to virtual learning and are far behind in covering their curricula.

For the private school students, learning continued and most wrote virtual tests and exams, keeping their studies continual, an opportunity their colleagues in public schools lacked and hoped would  not affect them negatively.

A public school student, John Osemekhian, said that he was enthusiastic to return to school but feared that he might fail the exam.

“My school stopped teaching when we closed so I don’t know how I am going to learn everything before August 17.

“I also don’t know if my school will reopen with others. I went there to check and did not see anybody.

“We might use the first few days to cut grass but I don’t think it will be easy to write the exam on the date the government is saying,” he said.

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Anita Eboigbe

Anita Eboigbe is a journalist and data analyst with nearly a decade of media and communications experience in Nigeria. She has expertise in human interest reporting, data reporting, interactive content development and media business management. Anita has written for several national and international publications with a focus on communication for development. She holds an honours degree in Mass Communication and several certifications in data analysis and data journalism.

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