COVID-19: Okebukola cautions against school reopening

Peter Okebukola

Former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Peter Okebukola has cautioned governments at all levels against the reopening of schools amid the increasing cases of COVID-19 pandemic infections.

According to him, the decisions by the Minister of Education, Mr Adamu Adamu, to cancel participation in the 2020 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) and suspend the reopening of schools, were taken in the best interest of the nation, as the Minister did not want to experiment with the lives of the Nigerian children.

In his statement, entitled: “Children’s Lives Matter: A Case of Safety First in Reopening of Schools,” Okebukola, a Professor of Science and Computer Education at Lagos State University (LASU), advised that Parents, who he said would end up blaming the Minister, not rush their children to the WASSCE examination hall on 4th August, in view of the spread of COVID-19.

In his words, “Who says the Nigerian government cannot request WAEC to conduct the SSCE when the environment is clement out of the regular May/June, November/December seasons?

“Who says that the other West African countries are ready to present their candidates in August/ September, 2020 for the examinations? Softly, softly, dear colleague parents and grand-parents, the lives of our children matter.”

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The don, who recalled that in the midst of the pandemic, in more than 90 percent of affected countries, children are asked to stay home, insisting that exposing children to the virus comes with the danger of casualties and loss of lives of successor generations of the nation’s workforce and leaders.

On the daily updates of PTF’s present data that the COVID-19 storm was still howling, Okebukola added that the Minister was unwilling to expose school children to the health hazards associated with COVID-19.

He said that Nigeria could negotiate an out-of-season date for the WASSCE when COVID-19 curve would have flattened sufficiently, stressing that the July 13 guidelines were complied with for children to return safely to school.

Citing the case of countries such as Kenya, where schools will remain shut till 2021, and Ghana, where schools were ordered to reopen with spike in COVID-19 in the Ministry of Education and in schools may trigger massive demonstrations this week and closure of schools.

Last week, the Nigerian government released safety guidelines for the reopening of schools.

On this, he said that verification and enforcement of compliance by the federal and state ministries of education before reopening schools in Nigeria should not be compromised.

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“Under no circumstance should the government permit students to plunge into any external examination especially WASSCE without at least six weeks of revision when they are back in school,” he stressed.

According to Okebukola, the failure to comply with this recommendation could lead to the ‘mother of all examination malpractice’ and the 2020 SSCE will go down in history as the worst in terms of prevalence of examination malpractice.

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