By Udora Orizu
The federal government has activated 60,000 Environmental Health Officers, who will act as volunteers, to mount surveillance and enforce Presidential Task Force (PTF) guidelines for schools reopening across the nation.
Last week, the federal government through the Presidential Task Force on COVlD-19, decided to reopen schools which have remained closed since February as a measure to contain the spread of the disease in the country.
The schools reopening however is to be done in strict compliance with the directives of the PTF.
Addressing newsmen in Abuja on Monday, the Minister of Environment, Mahmood Abubakar, said 60,000 of such volunteers will cover schools in all the 774 local governments in the federation.
The 60,000 environmental health emergency volunteer corps, according to the minister, will be working with other stakeholders at the sub national levels in accordance with the said guidelines for the safe reopening of schools.
Abubakar said the ministry will monitor compliance with prescribed standards through a network of monitoring and evaluation teams across the nation and there will be sanctions for disobedience to the guidelines.
According to him, ”It is the duty of Environmental Health Officers to prioritize the immediate setting up of School Environmental Health Clubs where none existed prior to COVID-19 pandemic and as well resuscitate those not properly functioning. These clubs essentially run by selected learners will help in implementing directives of the teacher driven School Hygiene Committees.
”It is also appropriate to advise school managers to introduce Hygiene and Sanitation Prefectship to ensure proper compliance and daily guidance of learners. In the same vein, Environmental Health Officers working in the states and local governments are hereby directed to key into the training of teachers, administrators, and other education personnel on safety and hygiene measures namely disinfection, safe distancing, hand hygiene, use of face masks/shields, respiratory hygiene and Waste management.
“They will also play vital role in the development of information, education and communication (IEC) materials on hygiene and sanitation for use around the premises and in classrooms. EHOs should also see to the provisions for safe and hygienic school feeding arrangements and facilities as food hygiene is paramount in the safe school operation with particular attention to safe distancing in cafeterias. Equally important is for the EHOs to ensure food handlers and vendors in schools are regularly monitored for conformity with hygienic practices and behaviour while feeding learners from farm to fork.
”Furthermore, in accordance with the guidelines, environmental health officers in the federal and state Ministries of Environment as well as those in the LGA Environmental Health Departments shall be part of the Joint Assessment Teams for Safe Reopening of Schools and Learning Facilities being part of the Authorized Assessors.
“Additionally, Environmental Health Departments at all national levels are hereby directed to work collaboratively with respective Education Ministries and Departments to succeed.”