Guidelines for total reopening of school/

The rising disparity in education between those in the urban and rural areas in Nigeria has shown clearly that the lockdown order by the Federal government on schools is not the best option to address the challenges occasioned by coronavirus in the system.

President Mohammadu Buhari had on 29th June, 2020, approved the recommendation of the Presidential Task Force on COVID19 (PTF COVID-19) on Safe Reopening of Schools for students in graduating classes (Primary 6, JS3, SS3). This is done in order to prepare the students for their examination and bridge the gap created by COVID-19 in education.

In an attempt to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 in Nigeria, the Federal Government had in March, ordered the lockdown of schools and closure of many social platforms. This prompted some state governments to commenced digital lectures, while some private schools continue to teach their students online.

Unfortunately, because of the epileptic power supply and other inadequacies in the country, some students continue to stay at home without learning either online or offline. While some continue to advance in education.

This is complicated by the hardship caused by the lockdown on the economic activities due to the upsurge in the number of cases tested positive of the virus. In order to minimize the loss caused by this lockdown, some employers withheld the salaries of workers, placed some on half salary and in some cases disengaged some who happen to be the parents of these students.

Because of the paucity of funds, some parents could not afford to buy generator to power their television set. While those that have, struggle to fuel it. This has really affected the objective of the digital lectures, widen the education gap between students across the country and shows that the lockdown order in education will be counter-productive at the long run if not quickly replaced with a better method.

In fact, the rate at which coronavirus continues to spread worldwide shows clearly that the lockdown order in education is unsustainable because of the future effect on the students, country and the world at large.

For instance, the number of people that were tested positive of the virus in March when the lockdown order was seen to be the best solution was not up to 3 millions, today, it has passed 11 millions worldwide.

Most countries that started this lockdown order in education have replaced it with social distancing after realizing that coronavirus is not going to stop in the nearest future. This also should be adopted in Nigeria.

Though, looking at the shortage of manpower, dilapidated infrastructure and other challenges drawing back the wheel of education system in Nigeria even before the importation of coronavirus, it will be easy to jump to conclusion that social distancing might not work in the country. But the question barely comes to mind is: when is coronavirus going to end in Nigeria?

This is the reason social distancing method needs to replace the lockdown order in education before it will be too late. Social distancing will reduce the growing inequality in education and prevent mass failure in future.

To do this, the government needs to overhaul the education system by employing more teachers, divide the school hours into three section for instance, morning section, afternoon session and evening section. Make each section 3hours in order to avoid break time and place the teachers on shift.

Send teachers above 50 years on compulsory leave and stop the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs Disaster Management and Social Development from disengaging N-Power Volunteers because this the time we need more hands in education.

Organize meetings with stakeholders in education and put in place measures such as water point, sanitizers, among others in order to prevent the spread of the virus in schools.

Create temporary health centers in schools and ask those under the N-power health scheme to mount them so that they can be checking the temperature of the students as the come and leave the school premises on daily basis.

Set up monitoring team that will contain government officials, Parent-Teachers Association (PTA) members and people from the N-power Scheme to ensure compliance.

Use the fund budgeted for the home feeding programme to purchase face shade, noise mask and distribute them free to the students because the major disaster that needs urgent attention now in education is the lockdown.

Though, this would consume more money but it worth it, because the way covid-19 is growing in the country, it is obvious that the virus might not leave in the nearest future and if the lockdown order continues, there would be a lot of out of school children which will increase crime rate in future. This is because an idle mind is the laboratory of the devil.

Therefore, government should lift ban on schools and put in place measures that will engender social distancing, hygienic living among students, so that the nation will not because of the COVID-19 sow the seed of inequality which might increase different types of crime threatening the peace and unity in Nigeria.

Femi Oluwasanmi writes from Ibafo, Ogun State.