COVID-19 AND SCHOOLS IN SESSION

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Schools should adhere strictly to the safety protocols

After almost seven months at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, both private and public schools in Nigeria have since resumed classes. The resumption of academic activities is subject to strict adherence to the safety protocols enunciated by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the Covid-19. But the enduring lesson of the moment is that prevention is better than cure. This implies that the adherence and strict observance of the Covid-19 protocols is very important. Besides, the recent case where no fewer than 181 students and staff tested positive for coronavirus at a private boarding school in Lagos indicates the need for continued vigilance.

Before the decision to resume academic works at various schools, it was agreed that both the proprietors and proprietresses of private schools and administrators of public schools must adhere to the safety protocols. For all schools, regardless of specific exposure risks, it is always a good practice to frequently ensure that students wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. And when soap and running water are unavailable, the students are expected to use an alcohol-based hand rub with at least 60 per cent alcohol.

Apart from constant washing of hands, pupils and students alike as well as their teachers should avoid touching their eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. Though, this is not novel, it has always been part of school curriculum that students must always be neat. School authorities must ensure a good practice of maintaining social distancing. This would ensure that there is always a good respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes. The students and teachers alike should avoid close contact with people who are sick, and when confirmed that any student is sick, the person(s) should be advised to stay at home. In addition, the school authorities should enforce the wearing of face masks by both students and teachers as well as other school staff. There are no hard and fast rules to the adherence of both the NCDC and the PTF protocols on Covid-19. It has been there in the schools as they constitute part of hygiene and elementary sciences. The only difference now is that adherence has become more rigid for the overall health of both the students and teachers.

These NCDC and the PTF protocols are intended to help prevent school exposure to acute respiratory illnesses, including Covid-19. The protocols also address considerations that may help teachers and students to avoid community transmission of Covid-19. These are necessary as there is no clinical verifiable vaccines that cure the pandemic at the moment. It is particularly important to avoid a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic which is trending in some of the developed countries. As President Buhari rightly said recently, our economy is too fragile to withstand the rigour of another shutdown. Thus the various school management boards including the NCDC and the PTF should ensure that there is effective monitoring committees with sanctions for school authorities that fell short in strict adherence of the Covid-19 protocols.

When in July the federal government directed that schools should put their facilities in order for reopening, the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba announced the prerequisite conditions that must be met. These included the decontamination of school premises, hand-washing facilities, body temperature checks, ensuring social and physical distancing in classes and other necessary protocols to protect public health. While all that may have been done, if there is any lesson from the Covid-19 in Nigeria, it is that government at all levels should begin dealing with how to revamp the education sector in line with global trends.