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FG Releases Revised Guidelines for Schools Reopening

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By Peter Ayoade

The Federal Government has released new rules ahead of the scheduled reopening of schools at all levels in the country but yet to be specific about the dates.

The guidelines which was signed by the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu and Minister of State (Education), Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, was designed in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Environment, Federal Ministry of Health and health safety experts in the country.

The rules which was released on Monday, outlined actions, measures and requirements needed for the safe reopening of schools during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the guidelines released in Abuja by the Federal Ministry of Education, the safe distancing measures required that in schools and other learning facilities, learners should be supported to stay two meters apart.

The document reads: “However, there are exceptions where the two-meter rule cannot be reasonably applied and other risk mitigation strategies may be adopted. Examples include early years, younger primary school children, and those with additional needs.

“In these circumstances, risk assessments must be undertaken with the best interests of the learners, teachers, and other education personnel in mind. The scenarios require organizing learners and children into small groups with consistent membership and compliance with the risk mitigation strategies. The membership of these groups should not change unless the NCDC public health guideline suggests otherwise.”

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The document also included that government would conduct a rapid assessment and determine funding requirement for upgrading infrastructure and facilities (such as classrooms, furniture, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene-WASH and ICT facilities) to meet and sustain prescribed safe school reopening requirements.

The guidelines include a review of existing policies, practices, and risk mitigation strategies in the use of schools for other purposes, such as distance learning centres, temporary shelters, isolation, quarantine and treatment centres, markets, voting centres, among others.

“COVID-19 pandemic poses an enormous risk to the health and safety of learners, teachers, parents, school administrators, education practitioners, and the wider community.More than 1.5 billion children and young people globally have been affected by school and university closures.

“As a responsible government, it is also our duty to provide comprehensive guidelines for a safe and hitch-free reopening of schools and learning facilities. We do so knowing that the health, safety, and security of learners, teachers, education personnel, and families are priorities,” the ministers said.

The ministers explained that the need to develop the guidelines became imperative, “given that COVID-19 may be with us for a while.”

They said the guidelines also highlight the urgent need to maintain and improve upon distance-learning programmes.

“Our aim is to identify and strengthen programmes that will guarantee the recovery of learning gaps resulting from the pandemic.

“The guidelines were drafted in close coordination with health, environmental, education, and school safety experts who were tasked with the responsibility of charting a pathway for safely reopening our schools and learning facilities for quality teaching and learning,” the document said.

The approach, according to the ministers, ensured that stakeholders provided regular feedback throughout the process.

They expressed gratitude to the Presidential Taskforce on COVID – 19, FMoH, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and the Education in Emergencies Working Group in Nigeria for their support and contribution in the development of the guidelines.

Schools and all learning facilities were closed down in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, in order to contain the spread of the virus and safeguard the health and general wellbeing of children, youths, teachers and educational personnel.

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