Reopening schools not compulsory, says minister


Nigeria’s Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, said the proposed reopening of school as the COVID-19 pandemic cases increase in the country is not compulsory.

Recall that the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 had on Monday announced the partial reopening of schools for students in the graduating years of Primary Six, JSS 3 and SS3.

But while featuring on a Channels Television programme on Wednesday evening, Nwajuiba said this “is really not a matter of compulsion”.

He also observed that parents are already engaging their wards in street trading due to closure of schools occasioned by the pandemic.

Nwajiuba allayed the fears of parents and teachers, assuring them that the Federal Government has made adequate measures to ensure the safe resumption of schools for the exiting pupils.

He explained that the government took the decision for the three categories of pupils to resume for a brief revision before their promotion examination because not all of them have access to technology or devices for online learning.

The minister said, “We understand the limitations of Nigerians. Most people cannot afford laptops and devices and we know that not all our children have the same access. And if there are people who do have this access and who feel confident that their children are ready for these exams, nobody is compelling anybody to go to any school.

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“What we have done is to make the facilities of our schools available. Each school should have places to wash hands, check the temperature of the children constantly, have sanitisers. Private schools should be able to provide that and state governments. The Federal Government owns just about 104 unity colleges.

“So, it’s really not a compulsion. We are just making the facilities available for the purpose of taking the exams for those who want to take the exams. But it will not be a responsible act by the government to then say because there are some people who may not want to take the exams that we should not make the facilities available for those who may want because life is a continuous journey of choices and our children have been at home.

“We have 1.5 million children registered for WAEC this year and we know that internet penetration for this group is less than 300,000. So, it will be the height of injustice not to make these facilities available for others to learn.

“We know that children at the moment are at home; they mingle with their own parents or with friends or with those who go to the market and come back or those who go to the mosques or churches. They do all kinds of activities. Those that are well off could afford to keep their children watching TV but some are using their children as hawkers – we are losing people we are trying to bring back to school and if do not do anything about this, we will just lose all the children altogether and you will not be able to return them back to school eventually.”

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