The Federal Government is still confused about the re-opening of schools for academic exercise due to the Corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic. Last week, discordant tunes emerged from the Federal Ministry of Education. In one breath, the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, said at a regular press briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 that academic activities will commence as from September 21st. Not long after he met with the Northern Traditional Leaders Committee (NTLC) on National Primary Health, he changed his tone, saying that all protocol must be put in place and assurances obtained before academic activities could commence.
The meeting with NTCL, according to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) was presided over by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhajiu Lai Mohammed, on behalf of the Chairman of PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha. The meeting was to seek the support of the traditional rulers towards preventing community spread of COVID-19.
Responding to a question from the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Sa’ad Abubakar III, on school resumption, Nwajiuba said the federal government is still evaluating the situation and has “not come to the point where we can say we are convinced that schools can manage themselves and reopen comfortably”.
He added: “Our teams have gone out and we will use the whole of this week and next week to do a proper evaluation. We are going round to see the level of compliance but most importantly, we are waiting to get an update on all the facilities in every part of Nigeria”.
The minister said “government strongly believed based on the opinion of experts that 15 per cent of transmission of the pandemic arise from school environment which is why they proposed the remodeling of classrooms. We believe the experts who said that the school system is a suspect place for transmission and that is why we are working with them, particularly on guidelines”.
The minister said they experimented with the West African School Certificate Examinations (WASCE)and the Joint Admission Matriculation Examination (JAME).
But, the minister got it wrong especially with the date of writing JAMB examinations. There was no serious issue around covid-19 in Nigeria when the current final year secondary school students took the JAMB examinations. As a matter of fact, JAMB results had been released several weeks before the commencement of covid-19 lockdown in the country. As for his findings during WAEC examinations, the ordinary folks do not believe him.
The AUTHORITY strongly believes that every effort should be made to ward-off covid-19 from Nigeria. Thank God Almighty that Nigeria was protected by providential hands from the dreaded virus, otherwise, the prediction of the UN and some other international donor agencies that corpses would soon be on every street in Africa would have been a reality, but man proposes, God disposes.
It is therefore a huge surprise that weeks after the Federal Government got the heath report alluded to by Minister Nwajiuba, it has done practically nothing to commence the remodeling he spoke about. This statement coming from same minister who few days before he made the U-turn, shows that something larger than the ordinary is lurking around somewhere.
There is no fact that Nigeria has earned nickname as one of the wonders of the world, but issue of covid-19 should not take us to that ignoble chat again. We managed to earn such non-salutary sobriquets during the COJA competition, where we hurriedly put together facilities less than 24 hours to the commencement of the championship, but issue of life and death such as covid-19 should not make us think in that direction again. Although we have ‘experts’ who do the impossible at the last minute, but issues to do with life and death, such as the refusal to let medical doctors and allied medics in the hospitals to understand the intricacies of the management of covid-19.
We therefore ask: Is there any special training regarding the management of covid-19 or other infectious diseases which doctors and para-medics who work in our hospitals did not received except those of them working at the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NDCD)? If not, why make issues of covid-19 appear like a movie and out of the training capacity of other medical doctors and paramedic? This is an area that ought to be immediately looked at, especially as Minister Nwajiuba has expressed fears regarding schools resumption.
We all know that certain people had kicked against schools re-opening each time it is mooted. But such persons have not kicked against the reopening of markets, motor parks, worship places and several other business and private outfits. The AUTHORITY is wondering about the peculiarities regarding academic environment that Nwajiuba stated empatically that it is the incumabtion for 5 percent of covid-19 infections. Does it mean that immediately after schools unceremoniously vacated, covid-19 crept into such academic environment and built tent?
Without going into issues that are unnecessary, it is important to point out the education remains the most important national resource of any country. Any nation that neglects its education sector will surely pay the price of grooming ignorance. Even the level of insecurity faced in the country, has a correlation with educational level in such parts of the country.
We cannot afford to toy with the future of our nation. Of all the sectors, education certainly is the premium and should be accorded the number one priority. If the earlier-mentioned sectors should open for business, we do not see any reason why our education sector should remain in a comatose position even a week after this editorial. To do so is to suggest that we do not care about our future or consider the well-being of our youth as back-bench issue. This is certainly not the way to go. Education and everything related with it ought to occupy a prime position in our planning and budgetary allocation and releases. After all, an ignorant society is the worst society one can ever have.