School reopening though no date has been fixed for resumption, schools are itching to open again for teaching and learning. The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 response has left the decision on resumption of schools and churches to states. To this end, states are preparing protocols for resumption. Many of them have presented suggestions to the government on how schools should resume operation.
A major concern about the resumption of schools is the issue of overcrowding, especially in public schools. In many public schools, some classes have up to 100 pupils – many times the internationally recommended class size (15-40). Deputy National President, National Parent-Teacher Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN), Chief Adeolu Ogunbanjo, said overcrowding and congestion in public schools was major concern.
Private schools are disappointed that the PTF gave no date for schools to resume. However, Adeolu advised the government to soft-pedal on re-opening schools, especially as figures of COVID-19 cases are still rising.
He also called for a simulation of the re-opening process to see how it is going to look like. Overcrowding is a sensitive issue in our public schools. If schools are to resume in the state, a third shift should be introduced to the one proposed by government. So, we can have morning, afternoon and evening lessons.
“But as of now, it is not advisable to re-open because the figures keep rising. In Korea, schools were re-opened, but they had to shut down again because it had damaging effects.
Then apart from sensitizing everyone in schools on how to handle the situation, it is important we simulate what should be in place before the actual re-opening so that we won’t go the way of South Korea, hence we should not be in a hurry to re-open,” he said.
For Mrs. Biola Orekoya, a public school teacher in Lagos, the government must do something to reduce class sizes. She agreed classes should hold in batches. However, she expressed concern about the burnout effect on teachers who would have to take multiple sessions each day.
With over 50 pupils in her class, she said the proposed morning and afternoon lessons may be strenuous for teachers. She said schools may have to adopt a hybrid mode involving both physical classes and online lessons.
“I handle a class of over 50 pupils, so even if we are to go with the proposed morning and afternoon lessons, the teachers will be stressed out. Then, since online and TV and radio lessons are on, pupils can still make do with them,” she said.
Should schools resume now, Mr Ademola Lateef, a parent, said it would be difficult to send his wards to school, given that they are over 60 in their classes.
He said: “The protection of our children matter at a time of deadly virus like this. Most of our public schools are highly populated and we cannot rule that out because it is free education. If government wants to re-open schools, proper safety measures should be put in place for the children. Personally,it won’t be easy to send my wards back to school now until things stabilize. Practicing social distancing will be tough because in their class they have more than 60 pupils in different arms.”
Another parent, Mrs. Debola Sanusi, said for overcrowded classes, school authorities should enforce strict adherence to social distancing rules by giving them lessons in phases and on various days. If it is compulsory to re-open schools now, then school authorities should make sure there is strict compliance to physical and social distancing rules.
They can also introduce lessons in phases and to avoid overcrowding, pupils can attend lessons on different days since the compulsory subjects are taught online and on radio.
Face masks and personal sanitizers should be made compulsory for each pupil,” she said. The National President, National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Chief Yomi Otubela, has also weighed in on the mater. He is in support of staggered school attendance to maintain physical distancing.
Speaking during an online press conference, he suggested that pupils in terminal classes – primary six, JSS3 and SS3 should resume first to prepare for their external examinations. He also recommended that states with lower COVID-19 cases could resume ahead of others.
“NAPPS suggests the re-opening of schools in batches starting with the terminal classes – Primary six, JSS3 and SSS3 to enable them be adequately prepared for their external examinations.
It will be recalled that NECO (National Examination Council) has also suggested the recall of BECE/SSCE candidates for revision and examination.
They suggested that only such students and teachers involved in the examinations should be recalled while at the same time social distancing with other safety measures should be observed.
Where reopening of schools all over the country at the same time is not feasible because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we suggest that schools be authorized to resume in those states with no records of positive Coronavirus cases and in those with reduction in positive cases,” he said.
On the preparation for resumption on the part of private schools, Otubela said NAPPS would train school nurses and cleaners to maintain hygiene practices in schools.