…outlines minimum safety requirements for schools

In order to brainstorm on modalities for reopening of schools, the Honourable Commissioner for Education, Akwa Ibom State, Prof Nse Essien yesterday had a meeting with critical stakeholders in the education sector. The meeting which held at Community Secondary School, Aka Offot saw the Commissioner brief the stakeholders on recent developments in the sector as it relates to the COVID 19 season and outline basic requirements for resumption of schools.

In Setting the tone for the meeting, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Mrs. Helen Ante said the meeting was necessary as an avenue for stakeholders to say plain truths to themselves and fine tune the State’s position on issues as there were series of information crisscrossing the media especially social media confusing, deceiving people and causing chaos in the society. COVID 19, she said was a very critical moment in the history of the world and a lot of things needed to be put in place after the lockdown for schools to resume. She disclosed that a lot of work had been done on the background to get the system prepared in case announcement is given for resumption of schools. She urged the stakeholders to share ideas and proffer solutions with utmost patriotism.

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In his address, the Commissioner for Education, Prof. Nse Essien stated that there was need for stakeholders to rub minds and see how the State can be prepared for the post COVID education system. He disclosed that events in the last two days which saw the Ministers of Education and State for Education bring up diverging opinions on resumption of schools show the need to start preparing for resumption of schools especially for the SS3 to enable them take the WAEC examination. This he said might be followed by NABTEB and Basic Education Certificate Examinations and thereafter, other students in other classes.

Prof Essien maintained that there are several basic and minimum protocols to be observed to create a corona virus infection free environment for our children as such, stakeholders must endeavour to ensure that our schools are not slaughter houses where our next generation will be eliminated.

He stated that all schools must provide adequate number of classrooms to ensure physical distancing, provide infrared thermometers, running water , washing soaps and hand sanitizers for disinfection after washing of hands. He made it known that borders for now will be operating from home and that parents should make adequate preparations for their transportation while urging schools to ensure that all candidates wear face masks, provide disposable tissues papers for cleaning of hands after washing and must maintain clean sanitary condition in lavatories, toilets and urinaries. Furthermore he said, special training must be done for teachers on how to teach in the post COVID 19 era as it would be different from the norm and sensitization must be done for parents and students on the dangers and prevention of Corona Virus infection.

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The Education Boss reiterated the need for fumigation, general cleaning and grass cutting in respective schools and the provision of a make shift school clinic in case of any outbreak. A special toll-free number he said will be provided to enable easy contact with the medical team of the post-COVID 19 committee in the State in case of emergency. He emphasized that on resumption of schools, there will be no assembly of any nature neither will break times be permitted.

The Ministry helmsman advised schools to set up COVID 19 compliance committee in their various schools and forward the names and phone numbers of members to the Ministry as COVID 19 compliance certificates will be issued to all schools before they are allowed to operate. He reiterated that government owes it as a duty to protect our children from the rampaging global epidermic and therefore promised to support the teachers and school owners to ensure the guidelines are practicable.

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The stakeholders present, made profound contributions and shared thoughts on the way forward. Dr. Ini Etukudoh, a representative of the Ministry of Health presented a talk where he briefed participants on the reality of COVID 19 and achieving safety in schools.

The key Stakeholder groups in attendance were Education Boards, Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), ANCOPSS, AOPSHON, WAEC, NECO, NABTEB, NAPPS, NAPTAN, ENIAC consultants.