The Federal Government has said it had presented a proposal for the reopening of schools to the National Assembly.
The Minister of State for Education, Mr. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, spoke on Tuesday in Abuja at a meeting with the Senate Committee on Basic and Secondary Education.
The minister stressed that the proposal should not be misconstrued as guidelines for schools’ reopening.
He was reacting to the plan by some states to reopen schools, despite the fears arising from rising cases of Coronavirus infections.
Nwajiuba said the ministry had presented a document to the National Assembly, proposing safety measures, before schools would be reopened.
“In the document we have provided, we have suggested how we can move our Education sector forward in this pandemic period. We don’t want to make it known at this period so that some people will not take our proposal for guidelines for schools’ reopening.
“This is because people publish fake guidelines everyday, which I always come on air to debunk. What we have now is a proposal. Even if the Senate has not called us, we would have come to you to discuss with you because we have already discussed with the House of Representatives.
“The documents were presented to you so that you can criticise and make inputs as major stakeholders.”
The committee’s Vice Chairman, Senator Akon Eyakenyi, who presided over the meeting, expressed the fears that the academic calendar could be distorted in public schools where no visible arrangement was being made to teach the children at home, unlike their private schools’ counterparts.
She said public schools’ pupils were made to rely on educational programmes on radio and television stations whereas they tuned to stations showing cartoons whenever there was no adult to guide them.
The senator said children in public schools do not have access to online classes, like their counterparts in the private schools.
“Even when the pupils in the cities have access to education programmes on radio and televisions, what of those in the villages? What do we do so that we don’t shut them out?
“If government can give guidelines for the reopening of churches and mosques, stakeholders in the Education sector could also hold a meeting with the government to agree on guidelines for schools’ reopening.
“All we need to do is to come up with measures that would ensure the safety of both the pupils and their teachers.
“We can design a plan that would make sure that not all the pupils resume at the same time. We could probably start with the exit classes. We could have the numbers of pupils that would go to school in the morning and afternoon sessions.
“We have to be innovative in our approach to save our educational sector in this country because nobody knows how long the disease will be with us.”
The senator representing Oyo South, Kola Balogun, had asked about Federal Government’s reaction to the plan by the Oyo State government to reopen its schools.
Nwajiuba said: “Why is Oyo State talking of reopening schools when it has just started recording an increase cases of Coronavirus infection?
“Just beside Oyo is Ogun State, which was part of the three states under Federal Government’s lockdown since April and it is not talking about schools’ reopening.
“That’s part of the country’s problem. Education is on the Concurrent List. So, every state takes decisions that please it on it. Also, everybody is a big man. When you call them on phone, they will not answer you.
“As we speak, Kogi and Cross River states are not on the same page with the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on the issue of testing while all their neighbouring states are conducting tests.”