Stakeholders in the Education Sector of Abia State have tentatively fixed August 10, 2020, for reopening of Schools to enable students in exit classes prepare and write their relevant examinations.
The planned reopening is subject to verifiable compliance with all the proposed COVID-19 prevention and control measures agreed at the Summit convoked by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu at Michael Okpara Auditorium of Government House, Umuahia.
Addressing Newsmen at the summit,the Chairman of the State Ministerial Committee on COVIS 19 and Secretary to Abia State Government, Barr Chris Ezem, listed some of the agreed pre-conditions to include clearing of school premises, decontamination/fumigation, provision of sick bays with relevant medical staff, digital thermometers, compulsory provision of hand washing stations as well as maintenance of social distance with maximum of 20 students in each classroom.
Ezem who informed that the measures apply to both public and private schools in the State listed other conditions to include ban on gatherings among the students, ban on food vendors in the schools, and assured that the government will provide original pocket-size hand sanitizers for all the school children in the exit classes.
Head Teachers were also directed to ensure that the students spend a minimum of 10 minutes daily to learn about COVID-19 and its associated prevention and control measures while charging parents to ensure that their children have and wear face masks to school.
On planned reopening of Tertiary Institutions in the state, the Summit agreed that each school will submit its plan for resumption of exit classes to the Secretary to State Government along with detailed plans to ensure that students are protected from the virus
In his opening remarks, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu insisted that while the State was desirous of ensuring her high flying students resume classes as quickly as possible, his administration would not sacrifice the health of the children for anything.
According to him, “we must find a balance between ensuring that they continue to enjoy good health and protection from this virus and continuing their education.
I therefore urge all of us to take responsibility for our protection from this virus as well as the protection of our children and loved ones. Our lives cannot stop because of this virus but we can take necessary measures to protect ourselves and loved ones from the pandemic”, he said.
Governor Ikpeazu who announced that his government will continue to wage relentless war against COVID-19, called on religious leaders in the State to take up the fight against the virus in the state by using their pulpits to sensitize the people on COViD-19 prevention and control protocols as well as encourage them to participate in the on going Community testing across the state. He assured that the state is ready to break the chain of community transmission of the virus hence the decision to commence the testing with two functional testing laboratories in place.
The Stakeholders who spoke at the Education Summit in Umuahia included Representatives of PTA’s, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Proprietors of Private Schools, the Clergy, Traditional Rulers, the Academia among others.
Speaking at the occasion, the State Commissioner for Education, Dr Kanaelechi Nwangwa, said the Summit was convened to fashion out modalities for the reopening of schools for pupils and students in the exit classes.
In his address, the State Commissioner for Health, Dr Joe Osuji, said health officials will go round schools to check sick bays and give out sanitizers just as Teachers will be tested for COVID-19 before reopening of schools.
*STATE GOVERNMENT’S APPROVED GUIDELINES AND RESPONSIBILITIES TO BE OBSERVED IN PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SCHOOLS IN ABIA STATE IN LINE WITH THE FEDERAL MINISTRY OF EDUCATION’S DIRECTIVES BEFORE REOPENNING OF SCHOOLS FOR THE EXAMINATION CLASSES NAMELY: PRIMARY 6, JSS 3 AND SS3 ON MONDAY AUGUST 10, 2020.*
1. *Compound Cleaning and Fumigation.* There should be a thorough Cleaning, Disinfection and Fumigation of the School environment and its facilities. These include fumigation of all school buildings, classrooms, offices, laboratories, toilets etc.; cleaning all surfaces within reach, like: tables, chairs, cabinets, electronic gadgets, boards, door handles, the whole surfaces of the school bus etc. These should be thoroughly disinfected with properly diluted chlorine solution such as Hypo, JIK and the like. These must be done within one week prior to resumption date. The clearing of the school compounds will be supervised by the School Head, the Traditional Rulers of the Community and the Transition Committee Chairman of the Local Government; while the fumigation will be handled the Ministry of Environment, the Local Government Health Authority, the Ministry of Education and the Office of the SSG.
2. *Sick Bay.* All schools must have a Sick Bay with beds to be manned by a Health Professional. This is where sick students can receive First Aid treatment before the arrival of the parents or the family doctor as the case may be. This is to be supervised by the Ministry of Health.
3. *Temporary Isolation Space.* All Schools must create a temporary isolation space where children or school members who show COVID-19 related symptoms must be isolated till the arrival of the COVID 19 Protocols team. (Call 07002242362 for dispatch of ambulances or mobile clinics to pick them). RESPONSIBILITY: All Schools to provide this space.
4. *Use of Thermometer for Screening at the School Entrances.*
Everyone coming into the school compound: teachers, students and everyone MUST be screened with thermometer to ascertain their body temperature. However, visitation to our schools will be highly restricted to visitors on very essential duties. Parents will be expected to drop their children at the school gate for screening before they enter the school compound. At all times, everyone that enters the school compound will be subjected to the COVID-19 protocols. In a situation where a staff, pupil/student presents classical COVID-19 symptoms like fever dictated during the temperature check accompanied with persistent coughing and/or sneezing, breathlessness etc, the person will be prevented from entering the school compound, In such cases, the Abia State COVID-19 response team should be alerted at once by calling 07002242362 for dispatch of ambulances or mobile clinics to pick them.
5. *Washing of Hands.*
Schools should install handwashing stations in all major and minor entrances into the school compound. This involves placing handwashing buckets with running taps and used water collectors, soap and disposable paper towels at the school gate, all classrooms, offices, laboratories, toilets etc. It will be compulsory for everyone coming into the school compound to participate in the mandatory hand washing with soap and running water at the gate before entering the school compound. Depending on the population of the school, it may be necessary to have more than one handwashing station at the main school entrance to avoid overcrowding at any point at any time.
6. *Face Masks and Sanitizers.* All teachers and students must wear their Face masks at all times in the school.
7. *TEACHERS/SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS* . For their safety and the safety of the pupils and students; all School administrators and teachers are required to undergo COVID 19 test to ascertain their COVID 19 status before the reopening date. To be coordinated by the Ministry of Health.
8. *Social/Physical Distancing Plans.*
a. The sitting arrangement in all classrooms and examination halls must be spread out, at least two meters apart.
b. There will be no general Assembly in Schools for now.
c. There will be no long breaks that will take the students outside the classrooms.
d. There will be no outdoor activities or games in schools for now.
e. The students will enter and exit their classes in well-spaced queues and in batches.
f. There will be no running around in the classrooms.
g. No class will have more than 20 pupils/students to make sure that social and physical distancing is effective.
h. Short prayers will be offered by teachers before the first lesson period every day in place of morning assembly.
i. Efforts will be made to ensure that there will be short break periods which pupils/students will observe by standing up and stretching their bodies while still in the class. Such break periods, for both Primary and Secondary Schools, will not exceed 5 minutes and will not be used to run around.
j. There will be no organized or unorganized school sports or games in our schools for now.
9. **Boarding/Dormitory Plans* . Considering the complexity of making students adhere strictly to the COVID-19 protocols without adequate supervision in their dormitories; running boarding services in our schools at this time is highly discouraged. BUT where it is absolutely necessary and the school administration is ready to run boarding services, they must put in place all the needed protocols and apply to the Ministry of Education for inspection and approval before resumption. Otherwise, all students should come to school from their homes.
10. *Using the Sanitizer.* Class teachers are to ensure that the hands of all pupils are sanitized with the sanitizer before each lesson or examination period. This should be repeated at different intervals while in the class so that students/pupils who may touch their faces or eyes or nose and mouth may not contaminate themselves.
11. Students/Pupils that are to sweep the premises/classes will do so under the supervision of their teachers. Such teachers must ensure that these students will wash their hands properly before resuming their activities for the day.
12. *School Dismissal Procedures.* When school dismisses, the pupils/students will be organized to walk out of the class in lines, maintaining physical distance strictly till they join their parents outside the gate. Departure will be monitored and arranged class by class. The whole school will not leave at the same time after dismissal. The classes that are nearer to the school gate will leave first, one after the other after washing their hands, till the last pupil/student has left. This order must be maintained throughout this period.
13. *All Staff Meeting/Training Session.* The entire tutorial and non-tutorial staff of each school will require at least a one-day training session to discuss and learn how to implement these protocols and ensure compliance before the resumption date. Each school can contact the Ministry of Education in conjunction with the Health Management Board to arrange for a Public Health expert to train them on relevant subject matters like the proper use of gadgets like the infrared thermometers, proper handwashing protocols, proper isolation protocols etc.
14. *Parents/Guardians* . Unnecessary school visits should be curtailed as all students will be received at the gate and will undergo routine screening before being allowed into their classes. Any sick pupil/student should stay back at home till he/she recovers. Parents/Guardians will be expected to pay the officially approved school bills where applicable.
15. *General Matters On COVID-19.*
a. School Time table will run from 8.00am to 1.40pm daily for now while the examinations time table will apply during the examinations.
b. No food or fruits vendors will be allowed into or around the school compound for now.
c. In cases where school bus services are available, all students and staff are to undergo temperature checks with the thermometer, and they must use the hand sanitizer before entering the bus. In that case, the bus surfaces like the seats and rails must be disinfected every morning before detailing it for work.
16. There will be lessons on COVID 19 every day in each class for at least 10 minutes before the commencement of each day’s activities in each school, at least during the first week of resumption. These lessons will cover:
a. What COVID-19 is
b. How it spreads and how to prevent its spread and stay safe
c. Proper handwashing techniques
d. The right use of sanitizers among others.
17. *Self-Appraisal* . Every school management will be liable for any breach or deviation from these safety guidelines. There should be a regular appraisal to monitor compliance levels and take note of new observations and plan for adjustments. Schools are expected to appoint Staff Health Monitors and Prefects who will be charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the COVID 19 Protocols are always observed by all in the School.
a. There should be regular cleaning and disinfection of regularly touched surfaces.
b. The screening for staff and students must be a daily task because they go back home daily and are continuously mixing up with other people outside the school.
18. *Monitoring/Enforcement* Team: To ensure strict compliance, all Zonal Inspectors of Education (ZIEs), Area Inspectors of Education (AIEs), SEMB and ASUBEB School Supervisors, the Inspectorate Division of the MOE as well as the NUT and NAPPS Monitoring teams will form the major monitoring teams. They will be expected to be on the move regularly to monitor and supervise compliance in all schools, both Public and Private.
19. *TERTIARY INSTITUTIONS.* All the tertiary institutions will present their plan of action for the resumption of their final year students to the Office of the Secretary to the Government for consideration before resumption.
a. The Local Government and Communities will take care of the clearing of their Schools’ environment before resumption of schools.
b. Fumigation of the approved examination centers will be handled by the Ministry of Environment and the Local Government Health Authority under the supervision of the Office of the Secretary to the State Government and the Ministry of Education. Government will take advantage of the offer by Gregory University, Uturu in getting this done.
c. Schools, both Public and Private, will provide beds and materials for their Sick Bay under the supervision of the Ministry of Health.
d. The PTA will assist all Schools to provide handwashing stations in all the schools including providing water in places where this is a challenge.
e. Government will provide Face Masks and Sanitizers to schools and exit class pupils and students.
f. Government will supply thermometers for use in the chosen centers.
g. Schools that meet up the Protocols enunciated above will be approved for resumption on Monday August 10, 2020 by the Ministry of Education
g. Traditional Rulers, Church leaders, Community leaders, Women and Youth leaders should help to mobilize the people to ensure that all COVID 19 Protocols are implemented.
Dr KCK Nwangwa
July 30, 2020.