The Federal Government has unfolded conditions schools and learning institutions must meet before they reopen.
These are contained in a 36-page document submitted to the Senate by the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu for their Information.
The document is titled: “Guidelines for schools and learning facilities reopening after COVID-19 pandemic closure.”
The Minister, in his forward to the document, described the conditions as key strategies for implementing safe, efficient, and equitable plans for school reopening and operations.
He noted that “given that COVID-19 may be with us for a while, the guidelines also highlight the urgent need to maintain and improve upon distance learning programmes.”
He added the guidelines were drafted in close coordination with health, environmental, education, and school safety experts tasked with the responsibility of charting a pathway for safely reopening schools and learning facilities for quality teaching and learning.
A major plank of the conditions is that schools must “create immediate temporary” COVID-19 “isolation space” before they can be considered to reopen.
Schools are also mandated to “ensure establishment of a School COVID-19 Referral System, including protocols and procedures to take if learners, teachers, administrators and other education personnel become unwell while in schools.”
Schools are also to establish and adequately equip dispensaries and clinics as appropriate as well as maintain regular contact and collaborate with health authorities on school safety, health, and hygiene.
Other conditions include that the Federal Government and other school owners would: “Develop appropriate mental health and psychosocial support services that address stigmatization and discrimination to assist learners, teachers, administrators, and other education personnel and their families to cope with the effects of COVID-19 and continued uncertainties of the pandemic.
“Make adequate provisions for school feeding where applicable to encourage learners to return and sustain attendance.
“Allocate grants to schools and learning facilities to procure soaps and buckets, ensure regular safe water supply, ensure constant supply of learning and instructional materials and pay salaries on time.”
They are also to mobilise and deploy new and existing resources to: maintain facilities and constantly upgrade teaching and learning equipment and upgrade infrastructure to cope with similar outbreaks that could cause disruption of the education system.
On the sequencing and scheduling of safe reopening, the Minister noted in the document that “safe school reopening will require careful sequencing and scheduling.
“This is necessary as all requirements for safe opening cannot be promptly met for or by all schools at the same time. There is therefore an imperative for prioritization. The following considerations underline the necessity of sequencing the safe reopening of schools:
“Time will be required to carry out need assessments and to organize procurement and delivery to schools.”
On the decisions about reopening schools and learning facilities, the Minister added: “Federal and States Ministries if Education should decide when to reopen after due consultations with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Federal Ministry of Health, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), and other critical stakeholders, including non-state education providers, teachers’ unions, PTAs, and school based management committees (SBMCs).
“It is equally crucial that consultations are held and communication exchanged with parents, teachers, learners and communities to understand and address common concerns.
“Decisions on safe reopening should be contingent on meeting the requirements set out in these guidelines and on a case by case basis for each school and learning facility.
“To this end, a multi-sectoral approach comprising of education, health, environment and Emergency Operation Centre (EOCs) should use the Safe Reopening School Readiness and Compliance checklist to determine when each school should reopen.