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The Federal Ministry of Education has released guidelines for safe school reopening in Nigeria. Schools from primary to tertiary were shut down 5 months ago to stop the spread of coronavirus pandemic.

As of 8/18/2020, 9:30 pm, there have been 49,895 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 37,051 have been discharged and there have been 981 deaths.

The Education Ministry says that: “These guidelines are intended to address safe school reopening across the country while sustaining the gains of early school closure.

“There is no single established system for school reopening and learning facilities in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this document provides a framework not only to ensure that schools meet a high compliance level before reopening but to ensure that we build back better resilience against future disasters and emergencies.”

The Guidelines for Schools and Learning Facilities Reopening after COVID-19 Pandemic Closures covers four thematic areas:

  1. Staying home and learning safely
  2. Before schools and learning facilities reopen
  3. Reopening Process
  4. Conditions of safety when learning facilities are reopened

Before Schools and Learning Facilities Reopen

Federal and State Ministries of Education (SMoE) should decide when to reopen schools after due consultations with the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 (PTF) and other critical stakeholders taking into consideration key requirements listed in the guidelines.

In each state, a functional Schol Health programme chaired by a state school health focus officer should be put in place while a school focal officer should be assigned in every school. Schools must also put in place systems that meet the following:

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i) Safe distancing procedures

ii) Alternative learning models for safe distancing. The guideline proffers diverse alternative learning models tailored to the specific learning context that assures equity in learning

iii) Review existing policies, practices, and risk mitigation strategies in the use of schools for other purposes, such as distance learning centers, temporary shelters, isolation, quarantine and treatment centers, markets, voting centers, and others.

iv) Develop and display at schools simple context-specific reference protocols on a day to day actions
to be operated in each school.  Conduct risk assessment with a view to understanding the gaps in the system that can increase
the risk of transmission and make recommendations for addressing the gaps

v) Safety and hygiene in all stages and phases of the school reopening process which promote behaviors that reduce spread, such as school commutes (to and from school traveling), safe distancing, frequent hand washing, and the use of facemasks.
Other guiding framework includes sensitization, financing, learning, and monitoring procedures.

School Reopening

Reopening Process

Adjusting to the new school process requires much planning. A phased and gradual reopening of schools is advocated to minimize the risk of infections in schools and the resurgence of COVID-19 infections in the community. This involves measures including:

i) Training of teachers and other personnel on safety and hygiene measures.

ii) Establishing a COVID-19 referral system.

iii) Ensure availability of an ambulance and access to a testing/isolation/treatment centre including NCDC helpline and state government facilities.

iv.) Ensure adequate Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities across the school premises.

v.) De-congesting classrooms, hostels, worship centres and other spaces.  Encouraging use of open spaces for gathering and promoting outdoor activities.

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vi) Establish a staff/students committee for regular surveillance, monitoring and enforcement of
COVID-19 guidelines.

Ensuring Safety When Schools and Learning Facilities Reopen

Preventive actions are sustained through regular monitoring of compliance in schools after reopening to ensure the safety and health of all learners, teachers, administrators, and other education personnel. Each school will comply with the periodic Joint Risk Assessment for Safe Reopening of Schools and Learning Facilities Checklist under Annex A of the guidelines.

Musa Suleiman
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