Keeping To The Covid-19 Protocols As Schools Re-open In Abia….Divine Nwankwo



By Divine Nwankwo

On Thursday, 30th July, 2020, Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu organised convocation of a special summit on education at the newly refurbished Michael Okpara Auditorium, Government House, Umuahia. The essence of the summit was for the stakeholders in the education sector to deliberate with government on modalities and workable ways of partial re-opening of public and private schools to among other things, enable our exit class pulpils and students in primary and secondary schools write their relevant local and international examinations as directed by the Federal government.

The partial re-opening of the schools was part of the gradual easing of the lockdown occasioned by the novel Covid-19 disease which has been ravaging the entire globe. The aim of the partial re-opening was to allow our children at exit classes including those in Primary 6, who are taking the National Common Entrance Examinations (NCEE), JSS 3 students taking the Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE) and SS 3 students sitting for their WAEC and NECO Senior Secondary School Examinations take their exams and graduate accordingly. The Federal government has equally released a comprehensive schedule for the various National Examinations for exit classes, spanning from 17th August to 18th November, 2020 as well as announced that classes for the candidates start August 4th, 2020.

The well-intended summit in Abia State which was attended by representatives of PTA’s, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), All Nigeria Confederation of Principals of Secondary Schools (ANCOPSS), Association of Primary School Heads of Nigeria ( AOPSHON), National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), National Association of Parent-Teacher Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN), Secondary Education Management Board (SEMB), Abia State Universal Basic Education Board (ASUBEB) proprietors of private schools, the clergy, traditional rulers, the academia among others resulted to an approval for commencement of the partial re-opening of schools on Tuesday, August 10th tentatively.
However, the Abia State government led by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu outlined the necessary conditions for the said re-opinng of schools for terminal classes. These guidelines according to the Honourable Commissioner for Education, Dr. Kanalechi Nwangwa are;creation of a temporary isolation space where children or school members who show COVID-19 related symptoms would be isolated till the arrival of the COVID 19 protocols team, use of thermometer for screening at the school entrances, placing of hand-washing buckets with running taps, wearing of face masks in the schools by all teachers and students, spreading out of spacing by at least two metres apart in the sitting arrangement in all classrooms and examination halls and students to enter and exit their classes in well-spaced queues and in batches, ensuring that the hands of all pupils are sanitized with the sanitizer before each lesson or examination period.
Further to the recommendations of education stakeholders in the State, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu through a
released by the Honourable Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu directed that the primary and secondary schools in the State re-open on Tuesday, 4th August, 2020, to ensure that teachers, relevant education and health authorities put in place necessary measures prior to resumption of full academic activities. The State government equally came up with timeline for activities leading to the return of students in the exit classes. This timetable covers days of fumigation of the schools, sample collection and testing for COViD-19 of all head teachers, teachers and all those expected to be part of the management of the relevant examinations in our public and private schools to ensure that only those who are free from the virus participate in the exam activities. Others are provision of hand- washing stations in all the schools as well as ensure that sick bays and isolation areas are readied prior to resumption of students, delivering of pocket and table hand sanitizers, face masks and digital thermometers provided by Abia State government to all public schools in the State for free distribution to students, teachers and examination supervisors among others.
Following the decision to re-open our schools for our children in exit classes, there is need to ensure we keep to the Covid-19 protocols to keep ourselves safe. Recall that in his remarks at the summit, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu insisted that while the State was desirous of ensuring her high flying students resume classes as quickly as possible, his administration would not sacrifice the health of the children for anything. He stated emphatically that “we must find a balance between ensuring that they continue to enjoy good health and protection from this virus and continuing their education. I therefore urge all of us to take responsibility for our protection from this virus as well as the protection of our children and loved ones. Our lives cannot stop because of this virus but we can take necessary measures to protect ourselves and loved ones from the pandemic”,
It is imperative that we are reminded of the fact that the easing of the lockdown is not because Covid-19 has been conquered but government decided not to shut down the economy perpetually. After all, the virus is still here with us and the rate of infection has been in the increase even on daily basis. Hence, the need not to let down our guard.
Parents and guardians are expected to prepare their children and wards very well and instruct them to adhere to the Covid-19 protocols. These protocols which has almost become a national anthem due to aggressive media campaigns about it include!; hand-washing with soap under a running water, use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer, wearing of face mask, keeping physical distancing, avoiding crowd among others. These pulpils and students must keep to these guidelines so as not to be infected by this deadly disease. Failure to Keep to these protocols may spell doom because, if the children are infected they would obviously infect their parents. Experts have warned that older people, whose immunity are low and / or have underlining ailments are at high risk of survival if infected.

Indeed keeping to these protocols would assist in achieving infection free examinations. It could also lead to full resumption of schools in the State because the outcome of this experiment may be a litmust test for the full re-opening of the schools. Let us therefore take responsibility as the schools re-open.

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