FG releases new guidelines for reopening of schools

The Federal Government, on Monday, released new guidelines for schools and learning facilities reopening after COVID-19 Pandemic closures and equitable plans for school reopening and operations.

The document focuses on attendance, social distancing, hygiene, cleaning, and non-pharmaceutical interventions for safe and healthy school activities and programs.

Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, and Minister of State for Education, Hon Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, endorsed the document released to the public to enable stakeholders to prepare ahead of the reopening of schools.

Adamu noted in the document that given COVID-19 might be “with us for a while, the guidelines also highlight the urgent need to maintain and improve upon distance-learning programs. Our aim is to identify and strengthen programs that will guarantee the recovery of learning gaps resulting from the pandemic.”

He added that the guidelines were drafted in close coordination with health, environmental, education, and school safety experts who were tasked with the responsibility of charting a pathway for safely reopening our schools and learning facilities for quality teaching and learning.

“The approach ensured that stakeholders provided regular feedback throughout the process. 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,” he stated.

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According to the guideline, the reopening timing should be guided by the best interest of learners and overall public health considerations, based on an assessment of the benefits and risks and informed by cross-sectoral and context-specific evidence, including education, public health, and socio-economic factors.

Some of the key things to consider before reopening of schools as listed in the guidelines are: “What is the level of community transmission nationwide? Has the spread of the virus been slowed down include, consistently, at least in the preceding weeks? Has the country reached the projected peak of coronavirus cases? Is the infection curve flattened? It is important for there to be a sustained reduction in coronavirus cases over a certain period of time before deciding to reopen schools.

“What is the level of compliance by the public with the guidelines? It should be considered schools, where there are no or low cases. There has to be evidence that this compliance can translate to the education community when schools reopen.

“How much capacity has Nigeria developed for national testing? What’s the capacity to test, trace, isolate, and support the schools when cases are suspected? Does Nigeria have the capacity to test all returning staff and learners in (boarding) school facilities?

“What is the capacity of the healthcare systems nationwide to promptly detect and contain an upward surge in the number of coronavirus cases if a second wave occurs? Are schools able and ready to implement infection prevention and control measures?

“What is the capacity of schools and learning facilities nationwide to maintain safe school operations (such as social distancing) to mitigate risks? For example, size of classroom compared to a number of learners; cross-ventilation in classrooms, availability of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) amenities, including latrines, hand-washing facilities with soap and water?

“How does the school population travel to and from school? What’s the risk of using public transportation for teachers, education personnel, and learners?

“What are the community-related risk factors to reopening schools for both teachers and learners, considering epidemiological factors, public health and healthcare capacities, population density, and adherence to social distancing and good hygiene practices?”

The guidelines also emphasized the need for alternative learning models for safe distancing outdoor learning, staggered attendance, alternative attendance, platooning, decreased interaction, flexible schedules among others.

NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

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