The House of Representatives has called on the federal government to postpone the reopening of schools by three months due to the increasing number of deaths attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Federal Ministry of Education had last week reaffirmed that schools as earlier scheduled, will be reopened on Monday, January 18.
The House Committee on Basic Education and Services, in a statement signed by its Chairman, Hon. Julius Ihonvbere, noted that many states and individuals have abandoned the adherence to the safety measures prescribed to guard against the spread of the virus.
The lawmakers, who opined that the decision to reopen academic institutions was ill-timed, however, gave a number of safety measures to pursue by the Federal Ministry of Education if the schools must be reopened.
The statement read in part: “The Committee on Basic Education and Services, House of Representatives has received with some concern the decision of the federal government to reopen schools on January 18, 2021.
“We are particularly concerned that when the infection rates hovered around 500 and under, schools were closed but now that it hovers well above 1,000 infections daily, schools are being reopened. Why are we rushing to reopen schools without adequate verifiable and sustainable arrangements to protect and secure our children?
“The Committee fully appreciates the implications of continued school closure on the education sector and the larger economy and society. We also acknowledge that the pandemic would remain with us for a while and we must design ways to live with it.
“Similarly, we acknowledge the argument that most young persons have not been as affected by Covid-19 and many are asymptomatic. Yet, it does not mean they have full immunity against the virus. We also know that they would be working and interacting with adult teachers, administrative workers and other persons that do not live within the institutions.
“Aside from Lagos and a couple of other states, governments are unable to enforce Covid-19 protocols. People no longer wear facemasks or use sanitisers. Public enlightenment campaigns have more or less stopped. Merely saying they would adhere to the protocols is no guarantee. In rural areas, the situation is worse.
“Our position is that in spite of the very comprehensive protocols established by the Federal Ministry of Education, not up to 10 per cent of our educational institutions have implemented five per cent of the protocols. In most of our primary and secondary schools nationwide, adequate furniture, water and other sanitation and hygiene facilities do not exist.
“Many poor parents would require support with facemasks and sanitisers for their children. We have not heard of how this would be addressed. We doubt that teachers, instructors and school managers have been adequately trained and prepared to handle Covid-19 safety protocols.
“We also know that adequate funds have not been provided to schools to cope with demands that accompany the new normal. We would like to challenge the Federal Ministry of Education to first, independently monitor the extent of basic compliance with established protocols in all our schools and not just take words of state and local authorities as given. The lives of our children are worth much more than the interests and comfort of any politician or bureaucrat. It is only after a minimum of 75% nationwide compliance that we can seriously talk about reopening schools.”