By; MOHAMMED KAWU, Bauchi
Preparatory to the re-opening of schools nationwide in closure for the past seven months, stakeholders in education and health sectors in the Northeast zone on Monday converged on Bauchi to adopt templates for the re-opening of the schools.
The templates, developed by the Federal Ministry of Education (FME) and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and supported by the United Nation’s Children Education Fund (UNICEF) for adoption by stakeholders as safety measures to re-open the schools in the very foreseeable future.
Addressing the opening session of the zonal Stakeholders Dialogue on School Reopening Readiness Template in Bauchi, the Minister of State for Education, Chukwu Emeka Nwajiuba regretted that the closure of the schools has made learners lost a lot of grounds as far as education is concerned.
He told the stakeholders dialogue taking place simultaneously in the six geographical zones of the country that the closure of the schools was part of government’s strategy to curtail the spread of the virus to school environments which were considered to be veritable ground to spread the virus.
In view of the above, said the minister, his ministry considers it expedient to hold the stakeholders’ meeting to plan and address the eventual safe re-opening of schools and learning facilities nationwide.
He said, “The Federal Ministry of Education developed the Safe School Readiness Template for an integrated approach to safe school re-opening which comes with many lessons. The Template requires the full engagement of all stakeholders which is considered a sine quo non for successful implementation”.
The minister explained that the template has some key roles and shared responsibilities to be played by the stakeholders at National, State, Local Government Area, and the School levels, and urged stakeholders to critique the template assiduously for the benefit of Nigerian school child.
In a goodwill message to the occasion by Chief of Field Office, UNICEF Nigeria, Bauchi Field Office, Mr. Bhanu Pathak said that his agency has since the closure of schools as a result of COVID-19, remained consistent with its mandate of promoting and protecting the rights of children.
Pathak explained that UNICEF has subsequent upon the closure of schools been collaborating with federal and state governments, and other partners to fulfill its responsibility of ensuring that children have access to quality education in a safe and conducive environment.
Mr. Bhanu Pathak expressed regret that the closure of schools has exposed children to more risks of educational setbacks such as examination failure, as they have also been uprooted from their schools where they could have been taught and sensitized on COVID-19 prevention and stemming its spread.
He therefore stressed the need for plans on reopening of schools, and ensure that safety preventive measures are put in place as laid down by the NCDC guidelines for reopening of schools, revealing that UNICEF has developed school reopening readiness template approved by both FME and NCDC.
Pathak called on education stakeholders, parents, caregivers and community members to be actively engaged in preparation for the reopening of schools which, he noted, can be achieved through safety operations, protection and well-being, inclusiveness, and financing, among others.
UNICEF commended everyone for the support to education, and reiterated its commitment to continue to partner with the government, partners and all stakeholders to ensure that all school-aged children in Nigeria access their rights to education.