The authorities must ensure that students and teachers adhere to the Covid-19 safety protocols

With the announcement last Friday by the Federal Ministry of Education, schools across all tiers in the country are expected to resume classes today. While we endorse the idea since schools cannot be forever shut, we hope that 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 Covid-19. The authorities must be mindful of the recent case where no fewer than 181 students and staff tested positive for coronavirus at a private boarding school in Lagos. That speaks eloquently to the need for continued vigilance.

In the season we are in, 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. Besides, pupils and students alike as well as their teachers should avoid touching their eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. And in a situation when soap and running water are unavailable, the students should use an alcohol-based hand rub. School authorities must also 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 the teachers alike should avoid close contact with people who are sick, and when confirmed that any student is ill, the person should stay at home, or isolated if in boarding school.

The school authorities should enforce the wearing of face masks by both students and teachers as well as other school staff. This 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 good of the school population. These health and safety 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. Above all, the various school management boards including the NCDC and the PTF should ensure that there is an effective monitoring committee with sanctions for school authorities that fall short in strict adherence of the Covid-19 protocols.

In reaffirming today as date for resumption of schools, Education Minister, Adamu Adamu said the decision to maintain the resumption date was the aftermath of “extensive consultations with relevant stakeholders, including state governors, commissioners of education, proprietors and heads of institutions, staff unions and students.” He, however, tasked parents and respective institutions to ensure full compliance with Covid-19 protocols which include compulsory wearing of facemasks by all students, teachers and workers in all schools; temperature checks and hand washing facilities at strategic locations in all schools; ensuring constant supply of water and sanitizers; enforcement of maintenance of social distancing and suspension of large gatherings such as assembly and visiting days. Other protocols highlighted by Adamu include limitations in class sizes and hostel occupancy; availability of functional health clinics with facilities for isolation and transportation of suspected cases to medical facilities and adherence to all other non-pharmaceutical protocols, restrictions and containment measures as may be prescribed by the PTF from time to time.

Since the enduring lesson of the moment is that prevention is better than cure, a strict adherence to the Covid-19 protocols is important. Beyond that, if there is any lesson the pandemic has taught us in Nigeria, it is that government at all levels should begin dealing with how to revamp the education sector in line with global trends. We must begin to design methods for e-learning as it is the case in most countries across the world.

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