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Towards Reopening Schools after COVID-19 Pandemic Lockdown


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Till date  there  is  no  officially  World Health Organization  (WHO)  approved  vaccine  for  the  prevention of  COVID-19.  Yet  there  are  agitations  from all angles  for  all schools to  reopen  in  Nigeria.  The  general  public  opine  that schools are over due  to be reopened  since  markets, churches, hotels and offices  are open. Recall that  pupils and students in day cares,  pre-primary, primary, secondary schools and  tertiary institutions have  been  at  home  for  the  past  five  months  due  to  lock-down  occasioned  by  the  pandemic.  Government has finally  succumbed  to  the  yearnings  of  parents,  student  Unions  and  the general public and  approves  full reopening  of  all schools across the  country

For  schools  to  reopen,  states are to conduct a risk assessment  to  ensure  that all COVID-19  rules  and  regulations must be  obeyed.   School administrators are  to step up measures   to protect the health, safety and well-being of students, teachers, other school staff, their families, and communities.

It is a well-known fact that schools are important part of the infrastructure of communities, as they provide safe, supportive learning environments for students, employ teachers and other staff, and enable parents, guardians, and caregivers to work.  Schools also provide critical services that help to mitigate health disparities, such as school meal programs, and social, physical, behavioral, and mental health services. School closure disrupts the delivery of these critical services to children and families, and places additional economic and psychological stress on families, which can increase the risk for family conflict and violence.
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The unique and critical role that schools play makes them a priority for opening and remaining open, enabling students to receive  both academic instruction and support as well as critical services. In order to prioritize opening schools safely and helping them to remain open, the National Coordinator of  the Presidential Task Force  (PTF)  on COVID-19, Sani Aliyu,   directed that the reopening be in phases  in order  to mitigate community transmission. The National Center for Disease Control’s (NCDC) Implementation of Mitigation Strategies for Communities with Local COVID-19 Transmission has strategies for community mitigation to reduce or prevent the spread of COVID-19, which in turn will help schools to open and stay open safely. Recognizing the importance of providing safe, in-person learning, communities may also wish to help schools by examining whether additional public or private space, including outdoor spaces, that is currently underutilized might be safely repurposed for school and instructional purposes.
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Reopening  schools  after five months lock-down  poses new challenges for schools, including implementing mitigation measures (e.g., social distancing, cleaning and disinfection, hand hygiene, use of cloth face coverings), addressing social, emotional, and mental health needs of students, addressing potential learning loss, and preparing for the probability of COVID-19 cases within the broader school community.
However, it is recommended that for now all daycare  and  educational institutions are to remain closed to in- passing  classes until  this risk is assessed and if  there will be opening up of schools , it must be staged and preferably carried out in phases to ensure that this does not pose a risk on the general  public  and  in  particular developer  bill groups that might end up getting infected  by  students going back home.  The Secretary to the  Government of the Federation and the Chairman  of  the PTF, Boss Mustapha  warned  that care  must be taken to ensure that such haste in reopening  of schools  across the country  would not  escalate  a  fresh outbreak and spread of the dreaded  corona virus  as witnessed in some countries.

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