NMA reacts to school reopening, says it is unwise
* DAWN, teachers, parents hail decision
* WASSCE to begin on Aug 17
The Federal Government on Monday said this year’s West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) will begin on August 17.
It asked schools to reopen for graduating pupils effective August 4 to enable them to undergo two weeks revision.
But doctors said they feared for pupils’ safety because of the unbating COVID-19 pandemic.
They said the government is not sufficiently prepared to ensure that pupils do not contract the virus.
President of the NMA Prof. Innocent Ujah told newsmen that while the children should not be kept at home forever, it is also unwise to expose them to danger.
He said: “At the moment we have not been told what new thing they have done – either the government, the private schools or the proprietors, to ensure the safety of the students. It is only the living that goes to school.
“Nobody knows the course of COVID-19, but then we need to be prepared. We must be very cautious and we must temporise (avoid making a decision or committing oneself in order to gain time).
“If the students are going to school, how are we prepared to ensure that they are protected from COVID-19? We need to be told in clear terms.
“The same parents that have been crying that their children should resume school will be the same people to criticise the government – that the government has not put anything in place and their children are dying.
“At that stage, the government will be brought to ridicule. So, we need to be very careful and balance our agitations in such a way that it does not unduly affect our children.”
The NMA chief noted that safety protocols are being violated by many Nigerians and political officeholders.
Ujah added: ”Adults are not complying with the basic guidelines and protocols on hand washing, use of sanitizers, face masks and social distancing. Even those that are supposed to be the leaders are not observing it.
“Therefore, it is clearly obvious that we have failed in the social distancing component of the protocol.
“The NMA is saying that we need to be cautious and temporise. However, the government has taken a decision and the government will carry the responsibility of whatever happens to the children.
“Both Federal and state governments must be prepared to take on responsibility for whatever happens to any of them.”
Spokesman of the Federal Ministry of Education (FMoE), Ben Gong, said the agreed dates were part of the resolution reached after a consultative meeting with commissioners of education, Education Secretary, Federal Capital Territory, and other stakeholders.
He said: “Secondary schools in the country are to reopen as from the 4th of August, 2020 for exit classes only.
“Students will have two weeks within which to prepare for the West African Examination Council (WAEC) examinations due to start on the 17th of August, 2020.
“These were the unanimous decisions reached today (yesterday ) at a virtual consultative meeting between the Federal Ministry of Education, Commissioners of Education of the 36 states, the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), the proprietors of private schools and chief executives of examination bodies.
“It was agreed that the exit classes should resume immediately after the Sallah break, from the 4th of August, 2020 to enable them to prepare for the WAEC examinations scheduled to commence from the 17th of August, 2020.
“The meeting also resolved that a passionate appeal be made to the Federal Government through the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and public-spirited Nigerians for assistance to schools across the country to enable them fast track the preparations for safe reopening, as agreed.
“Another meeting is to be convened tomorrow (today) between the Federal Ministry of Education and Chief Executives of examination bodies namely, NECO, NABTEB and NBAIS to harmonise their examination dates, which will be conveyed to stakeholders expeditiously by the Federal Ministry of Education.”
The NUT said it was ready to return to classrooms.
Its Secretary-General, Mike Ene, told our reporter that the union expects the government to provide safety materials.
He said: “We are ready to return to the classrooms provided that they do the needful – fumigate the schools, provide protective materials, which all the commissioners assured us during the meeting will be done.”
The National Parent Teacher Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN) hailed the decision.
Its President, Haruna Danjuma, said the association was ready to provide what is needed to keep pupils safe.
He said: “We are very happy to hear from the Federal Government. It is now left to us to prepare and meet up with the guidelines. We are very much okay and we are happy with that.”
The Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission also praised the Federal Government for reconsidering its stand on reopening of schools.
The Commission had announced that schools in the six Southwest would reopen on August 3 for terminal classes.
DAWN Director-General Mr Seye Oyeleye said: “The Federal Government’s decision to reopen schools on August 4 should be seen as a victory for dialogue, which is always the hallmark of a federal system that works.
“We had always maintained here in the Southwest that such a sensitive matter was never going to be solved by an executive diktat from the central government.
“This new decision taken in collaboration with all the 36 states is a triumph of reason.
“We will now implore all the other states to emulate the readiness of the Southwest states and ensure that safety of the teachers and pupils are not compromised by putting adequate measures in place as they welcome them.”