Preparatory to the reopening of schools, all teachers in Nigeria’s Southeast region must test for COVID-19 before returning to the classroom, Dave Umahia, the Chairman of Southeast Governors’ Forum, announced in Abakaliki on Sunday after a virtual meeting of the group.
There are currently 2,633 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the region, comprising Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo State.
Ebonyi has the highest figure of 759 confirmed cases, followed by Enugu with 741, Abia, 536, Imo, 465 and Anambra, 132.
Umahi, who is the Governor of Ebonyi State, said participants in the meeting, including members of the National Assembly and leaders of Ohaneze Ndigbo, expressed concern over the safety of children in school.
He said the participants expressed concern for children at the kindergarten and primary school levels where pupils would not understand what social distancing meant.
“This is because they love themselves and must always stay together and a part of the protocols of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is that people must wash their hands with running water.
“You will ask how many of our schools have running water and how many sanitisers have been provided for them.
“It is rainy season presently and most schools are bushy and have been abandoned since March due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
Umahi said the forum decided to review school infrastructure in the zone to support NCDC protocols and subsequently wait for the Federal Government to make a final statement on schools reopening.
“We will then review our position and tell our people the safest time to reopen schools with our health workers sent to enforce the NCDC protocols,” the governor said.
Meanwhile, the Imo State Government has imposed N180, 000 as fumigation fee for hostel fumigation.
The government said landlords of private school hostels in the state must pay the charge to ensure they were ready for students to occupy.
Femieral Resources Limited, a fumigation consultancy firm, contracted by the government to do the job, urged the landlords to comply or face prosecution.
It urged the landlords to pay directly into its account within seven days.
The Managing Director of Imo State Environmental Taskforce Committee, MacDonald Ebere, said that the state government approved the measure.
There are five higher institutions within the precincts of Owerri, the Imo State capital, and most do not have hostel accommodation for students who patronise private hostels.
Apart from institutions around the capital, there are others scattered in other parts of the state where students pass through similar experience.
The state government last week stated that all private schools must fumigate their premises using government approved contractors to avoid proprietors compromising standards because of cost.
“We can’t have a situation where the school owners may endanger the lives of our children by hiring cheap fumigators, who may use water and detergent only in the fumigation just to economise cost,’’ the Commissioner for Education, Prof. B.T.O. Ikegwuoha, said.
In Anambra State, Prof. Kate Omenugha, the Commissioner for Education, said in Awka on Sunday that the government had approved the procurement and distribution of 1,000 infrared thermometers to public primary and secondary schools.
She said the schools got the equipment during the Ebola crisis in 2014.
The commissioner said the new 1, 000 thermometers were replacement in schools where a recent inventory showed that theirs were no longer functional.
According to her, this is part of efforts to ensure that the schools meet the minimum COVID-19 safety protocols.
Omenugha said that other items, including buckets and hand washing soap, would be provided by the schools themselves.
She said the ministry had directed that all schools set up a task team and send out ‘Resumption Readiness Forms’, for assessing the level of readiness in line with all safety measures against the virus infection.
She said the measures included sanitation of the environment and spacing students in their schools.
The commissioner said so far, 912 of such forms had been filled and returned by the schools while over 95 per cent representing over 866 of schools that filled the forms indicated their readiness to resume.
She said that there were no fewer than 3, 000 public and private primary and secondary schools in the state, each of which must be ready before reopening.
“Exco has approved that we reopen for Junior Secondary School Examination (JSSE) and the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) for a date that will be announced after the ongoing stakeholders’ meeting. So we are ensuring that necessary measures are in place.
“After the submission of the forms we will go for validation before we reopen the schools.
“Meanwhile, we are going on with teachings through our ‘Teaching-on-Air programme’, a radio programme designed for all classes from primary to secondary schools,” she said.
Omenugha said the state was not leaving anything to chance, especially with regards to the 2020 WASSCE and the JSSE.
She said the state Executive Council also approved that schools should reopen for the examination classes in phases, adding that the electronic circular was issued to find out how schools had complied with the protocols.
The commissioner further said that the new normal in the ensuing post-COVID-19 education sector demanded that the modern day teacher was compliant with information technology.
She said antiquated teachers might not participate in the new era and that the forthcoming e-conference and e-teaching training for teachers in the state was to sensitise and equip them with the requisite skills for the post-COVID-19 education era.
Omenugha said the Ministry of Education was working closely with the Ministry of Health, which was part of the development of Education Health Policy on COVID-19 and also crucial to the training of school infirmarians or task force leaders.
Additional Report By Eustace Okere
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