From Linus Effiong, Umuahia
Stakeholders in the education sector of Abia State have tentatively fixed August 10, 2020, for reopening of schools to enable students in exit classes prepare and write their relevant examinations.
The planned reopening is subject to verifiable compliance with all the proposed COVID-19 prevention and control measures agreed at the summit convoked by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu today at Michael Okpara Auditorium of Government House, Umuahia.
Addressing newsmen after the summit, the Secretary to Abia State Government, Barr Chris Ezem, listed some of the agreed pre-conditions to include clearing of school premises, decontamination/fumigation, provision of sick bays with relevant medical staff, digital thermometers, compulsory provision of hand washing stations as well as maintenance of social distance with maximum of 20 students in each classroom.
Ezem who informed that the measures apply to both public and private schools in the state listed other conditions to include ban on gatherings among the students, ban on food vendors in the schools, and assured that the government will provide original pocket-size hand sanitizers for all the school children in the exit classes. Head teachers were also directed to ensure that the students spend a minimum of 10 minutes daily to learn about COVID-19 and its associated prevention and control measures while charging parents to ensure that their children have and wear face masks to school.
On planned reopening of tertiary institutions in the state, the summit agreed that each school will submit its plan for resumption of exit classes to the Secretary to State Government along with detailed plans to ensure that students are protected from the virus .
In his opening remarks, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu insisted that while the state was desirous of ensuring her high flying students resume classes as quickly as possible, his administration would not sacrifice the health of the children for anything. According to him, “we must find a balance between ensuring that they continue to enjoy good health and protection from this virus and continuing their education. I therefore urge all of us to take responsibility for our protection from this virus as well as the protection of our children and loved ones. Our lives cannot stop because of this virus but we can take necessary measures to protect ourselves and loved ones from the pandemic”, he said.
Governor Ikpeazu who announced that his government will continue to wage relentless war against COVID-19, called on religious leaders in the state to take up the fight against the virus in the state by using their pulpits to sensitize the people on COViD-19 prevention and control protocols as well as encourage them to participate in the ongoing community testing across the state. He assured that the state is ready to break the chain of community transmission of the virus hence the decision to commence the testing with two functional testing laboratories in place.
The stakeholders who spoke at the education summit in Umuahia included representatives of PTA’s, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), proprietors of private schools, the clergy, traditional rulers, the academia among others.
Speaking at the occasion, the state commissioner for Education, Dr Kanaelechi Nwangwa, said the summit was convened to fashion out modalities for the reopening of schools for pupils and students in the exit classes.
In his address, the state commissioner for health, Dr Joe Osuji, said health officials will go round schools to check sick bays and give out sanitizers just as teachers will be tested for COVID-19 before reopening of schools.