On March 2020, schools across the country were closed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and since then, the children had been studying from home, until 27th July, 2020, when the federal government announced August 4, 2020 as the date for resumption of all secondary schools across the country for students in exit classes (Jss3 and SS3).
This was contained in a statement issued on Monday by Ben Bem Goong, Director of Press and Public Relations, Federal Ministry of Education, stating that the decision was reached after a meeting of stakeholders in the education sector on Monday, 27th July, 2020,and only students in exit classes are expected to resume, so that they can participate in the West African Examination (WAEC) exercise scheduled to begin on August 17, 2020, having only two weeks to prepare for the exams.
So National Light reporters, NKIRUKA EZEDINUGWU, NKECHI IKENWOKE and BLESSING NNABUIFE visited some schools in Awka metropolis to ascertain the condition of schools and their preparedness ahead of the resumption.
SCHOOLS’ principals, proprietors and teachers in Anambra State have expressed their readiness to resume school for the exam classes.
Our reporters, who monitored the preparedness of schools to reopen following the federal governments pronouncement of reopening schools for students in exam classes, observed that many schools’ environment were already tidied up, with desks and students’ lockers rearranged to make way for social distancing.
It was also observed that as at Tuesday, a day after the federal government’s announcement, teachers, principals and other staff in schools visited were in their duty posts, arranging the school environment in compliance with governments’ directives on COVID-19 preventive measures.
At Igwebuike Grammar School, Awka, the principal, Arazu Jovita said that having read from the print media, the pronouncement madfve by the federal government to reopen schools for the exam classes which include JS3 and SS3 classes, the school management has been ready since the lockdown to begin properly the physical teaching and learning method in the school.
In an interview, the principal of Girl’s Secondary School, Awka, Lady Wini Ibezim said during her interactions with members of her staff, she let them know about the announcement of reopening of school by the Federal Government of Nigeria, by August 4. “It is expected that all will resume but we are still hoping to hear and get permission from the state government. The environment has not been fumigated, but we have mapped out a pace in the school building for an isolation centre for students who may have similar symptoms of COVID -19, while the sick bay remains available for students who may feel sick temporarily.
“To some extent, we have tried to get ourselves ready with regards to the reopening of school; I will not say that we are fully ready because of the financial constraint. Before, we have two infrared thermometers but only one is functioning, while the other one is not good,” she said.
The principal, Community Secondary School, Okpuno, Mrs Florence Uzu, said “the moment we were asked to come back on May 4, 2020, we followed the NCDC recommended preventive measures, from getting workers to cut the grasses in the compound, made provisions for buckets with running taps, soaps and sanitisers for all the classes and offices in the school. Due to the large population of students in the school, we made provision for temporary classes in our uncompleted administrative building so that when the students eventually resume, we can effectively observe the recommended social distancing. The parents have been advised to get white face masks for their children and wards. We also have made provision for a functional sick bay and infrared thermometers for checking students, teachers, visitors and every other person that comes into the school compound.
“It has also been agreed in our staff meeting that every form teacher will now have to be stationed in his or her own assigned classes with their students to help them observe those preventive measures such as social distancing, frequent washing of hands with soap and sanitizers, constant wearing of face masks and others.
I thank God we don’t have boarding facilities in this school, so it will be easier for the school administration to monitor the children and encourage them to observe those preventive measures.
On the possibility of getting children ready for the exams within this short period of time, she said “yes, we can do that, because throughout the lockdown, online teaching has been going on for all classes but especially for the exit classes. We were able to contact our students through the school registers. We have the online time table and were able to distribute them to our students through many social platforms such as whatsapp, facebook and equally through the normal mobile calls, text messages. Even before the lockdown, we were organising extra lessons after the normal school hours for our exam classes, so I believe we have covered the whole curricular activities for those in exit classes.
At Community Secondary School, Isu-Aniocha, Mrs Bernadette Obi, Vice principal, Academics said, “We heard about the resumption over the radio and we are still expecting the government circular on resumption any moment from now. As regards preparedness for the resumption, we bought buckets with running taps, sanitisers, liquid soaps ready to be stationed in every class, staff rooms and at the entrance of every office before the children will be back. We are also getting the face masks ready according to the number of students that will resume since it will only be the exit classes.
Again, the people that will clear the compound and those that will do the fumigation work are on ground. We will make sure that before the children are back; their lockers and sits will be arranged in compliance with the recommended gap of 2 meters. We also have a sick bay that will also serve as an isolation centre. Within these two weeks that the children have to prepare for the exam, we will revise all we thought them earlier before and during lockdown, because the online classes had been going on throughout the lockdown and the school curriculum for the exit classes have been fully covered. So, we are hoping that the children have gotten the required knowledge needed for the exams.
However, the principal of St John of God Secondary School, Awka, Lady Antonia Orakwu Nwanekie, said the school management are trying their best but they will still need government assistance. We have bought one infrared thermometer and talking about the school population, we need about five infrared thermometers but we have only one. We have a room created for isolation center. We have four bottles of sanitiser which will not be enough. We have 15 buckets and 16 bottles of liquid soap and it will not go a long way because we have up to 36 classrooms in our school.
“We need about 50 buckets, 50 hand sanitisers, 50 liquid soaps to be circulated in each of the classes and offices too. We have not fumigated our premises and that is because we don’t have money but through paying of school fees from the students, we can do it. We have been paying teachers half of their salaries since May. We seriously need the government assistance at least by fumigating our school.
“The class room is spaced two meters apart, each classroom has 20 students. Some students, we will shift them to the hall which can contain about 500 students. For the boarding students, we don’t have enough space for them because their accommodation is too small and we don’t have extra building for the space out so for now, it’s impossible. My opinion is that if school reopens, every student should be day students until we plan for that cause. It needs a very big funding.
“We have also let the parents know that each and every student should be coming back with their face masks; at least, three each so as to change it from time to time to avoid contacting or spreading the COVID-19 virus. But if any student or our worker contacts the virus, I will let it be known by calling the emergency number they gave us. We have an isolation center but we still need to call them because we’re not experts in it.
“Both the teachers and the students must keep to the preventive measures of the Nigerian Center for Diseases Control (NCDC). The students must wash, sanitise their hands and also check their temperature before entering into the school compound. No face mask, no entering the school compound. Inside the classes, a teacher must be in to monitor their movement and ensure no student touches each other and we have also instructed the vendors not to come inside the school to sell anything so that the students will not be tempted into gathering and buying something or pegging from each other’s food. We need funding. We are appealing to the government to assist us so as to prepare very well for reopening of school”, the principal said.
The sick bay attendant who is also the Health and Physical Education teacher for JS1, Nkech iEdochie said that the precautionary measures have been placed at the strategic points and appealed that government should provide some equipment like infrared thermometer, hand gloves, medicated face masks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) needed in the school.
According to her, “Before a student comes into the school environment, he or she must wear a white facemask and I will check the student with this infrared thermometer. If the temperature is high, I will send the student back to be taken care of by the parents but once it reads normal, I will allow the child to go in”.
Mrs Catherine Onuegbu, a mother whose two children are in the exit classes (JSS3 and SS3) said, “I feel very happy that school is gradually resuming. Although, online classes was introduced and my children had been following the classes actively, but one can never compare the actual face to face teachings with digital teachings. So, I am glad that both of them are finally going back to school. Again, I am also happy because they did not waste the whole of one year staying at home. Even though the exams did not come when it was supposed to have come, at least it will still hold this year.
Meanwhile, Anambra State Government has expressed readiness for exit classes in schools to resume on August 4.
This was disclosed by the Commissioner for Basic Education, Kate Omenugha during the fourth edition of ‘Meet the Media’, an exclusive insight into the Obiano administration, held at Jerome Udoji Secretariat Complex, Awka, on Tuesday.
According to her, after a meeting with the Federal Ministry of Education which concluded that states should prioritise phased opening of schools, Anambra State will join for the WAEC examination exercise which will commence on August 17, 2020.
She said that from the feedback available to her ministry, 99 per cent of the schools in Anambra are ready.
Prof Omenugha gave insight into Governor Obiano’s promotion of technical education in the state, including offering free tuition to students with special needs, accreditation of 23courses in 12 technical colleges in the state, renovation of the
Special Needs School at Isulo and increment of its monthly allowance from N50,000 to N500,000 and full scholarship to about 350 indigent students, among others.
Noting that Anambra children have distinguished themselves in global competitors as a result of policies of the present government, she recalled that the Obiano-led government had increased remuneration of teachers in hard-to-reach areas to 20 per cent of their basic salaries, adding that government is working to review the policy on areas of concentration.
She maintained that prior to the emergence of the Obiano administration, Education Ministry’s foundation was laid but not well solidified, adding that among other things, the state government commenced ICT training of teachers which is being leveraged on during the present coronavirus pandemic.
She commended the ABS management led by the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Chief Uche Nworah and stakeholders in education, noting that the ongoing teaching-on-air program on the ABS platform is perhaps the best thing achieved by the present administration.
Omenugha further disclosed that approval has been secured to distribute more radios to more people for increased participation.
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