Lockdowns are beginning to be relaxed and parents are partially returning back to work, its high time too to start planning the reopening of schools because without schools reopening, most parents cannot comfortably return back to work for obvious reasons. It’s been over two months now that students, all over the country, from basic schools to tertiary insti­tutions of learning, have been at home as a result of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.

According to United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Coronavirus lock­down measures have partially or fully closed schools for more than 90% of the world’s student population across 186 countries and territories. This measure was taken to ensure that the spread of the Corona virus was curbed as well as ensure the safety of the students.

With the look of things, there seems to be ray of light at the end of the tunnel as talks have begun to emerge from varying quarters as to reopening of schools. With these thoughts flying around, therefore, it is only but natural and plausible that necessary steps on safe re­opening of schools too be top gear. It is instructive that school administrators, proprietors of private schools as well as government at various levels and stakeholders alike should ensure that all hands are on deck to ensure a safe reopening. One precondition for any country to open schools, epidemiologists say, is that community transmission rates be at manageable levels.

During the course of last week, Wednesday the 27th May 2020 to be precise, at the usual briefing with journal­ists in Abuja to give update on the fight against corona virus in the country by the Presidential task force on covid-19, the Secretary to the Government of the Federa­tion, Boss Mustapha asked state and privately-run schools to begin taking measures that will see children returning back to the classroom. This can be said to be a right step in the right direction, in doing this, therefore, recourse should be made to measures other countries across the globe have taken in reopening their schools.

A couple of countries have reopened schools across the globe amongst which are; Israel, China, Taiwan, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Norway just to mention but a few. In China for example, BBC reported that China’s Ministry of Education required that students have their temperatures checked at school entrances and that they display a “green” code of health via China’s smartphone health code program.How does this color code works? Anyone with red or yellow code is not allowed to travel (a red code means you either have or likely have the corona virus while the yellow code means you have had contact with another infected person).

Similarly, pupils in the schools have been sitting with plastic dividers, to stop the spread of germs. In Taiwan on the other hand, schools never officially really closed down rather, their winter break was extended by ten days in February in order to allow for the disinfection of schools, distribution of medical and personal protec­tive equipment supplies and also implement new pro­cedures for schools with confirmed coronavirus cases. Like China, Taiwan also conduct temperature checks as well as use plastic tabletop desk partitions as an added security measures for curtailing the spread of the virus.

In Japan, the guidelines released by the Ministry of Health for school reopening included opening windows to ventilate classrooms, maintaining physical distance, checking temperatures daily, and wearing face masks. In Europe, on April 15th 2020, Denmark became the first European country on lockdown to reopen its schools, be­ginning with children in daycare and grades 1 through 5 and to adhere to social distancing rules. According to the government directives, schools are to divide classes into groups of no more than 15, while children are to wash their desks daily, among other precautions to be taken.

Also in Denmark, children enter through several dif­ferent entrances to prevent crowding and parents are not allowed inside the school. In Israel, students are not permitted to have physical contact with peers or staff and parents have to sign a health form confirming that their child does not have the coronavirus and if a family member has the coronavirus then the child is not permitted to go to school. In Germany on the other hand, only some select high schools across the country were reopened earlier in May giving priority to graduat­ing students to enable them take their final exams. Germany, like other countries, have implemented social distancing guidelines within the schools.

In March 2020, an Inter- Agency Standing Commit­tee (IASC) comprisingof the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO) and International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) set up“Guidance for COVID-19 prevention and control in schools”. Based on this document, “a series of annexes has been developed to help guide countries through adjusting various public health measures in differ­ent contexts. This annex provides considerations for decision-makers and educators on how or when to reopen or close schools in the context of COVID-19. These decisions have important implications for chil­dren, parents or caregivers, teachers and other staff, communities, and society at large”.

The document stipulates some basic principles that can help keep students, teachers and other staff (cus­todial, food handlers, etc.) safe at school and help stop the spread of this disease when schools reopens thus; sick students, teachers and other staff should not come to school; schools should enforce regular hand washing with safe water and soap, alcohol rub/hand sanitizer or chlorine solution and, at a minimum, daily disinfection and cleaning of school surfaces;schools should provide water, sanitation and waste management facilities and follow environmental cleaning and decontamination procedures; schools should promote social distancing (a term applied to certain actions that are taken to slow down the spread of a highly contagious disease, includ­ing limiting large groups of people coming together)

In conclusion, no two similar condition can be said to be the same and as such no one size fits all approach; conditions of each country are different, and it will be much more realistic to take measures that will best suit each area rather than dictating a policy measure as was decided in other climates. The point is that as we begin to conceive the idea of reopening schools, cues could be taken from the recommendations of the IASC“Guidance for CO­VID-19 prevention and control in schools” as well as other countries, where schools have been re­opened, to ensure safety of all as learning resumes to avoid ugly incidents, which could lead to closures again.

Maintaining social distancing, reducing class sizes, breaking large schools into different learning ses­sions (morning, afternoon and evening), wearing of face masks, regular and mandatory hand washing, holding classes outside, spaced – out desks and tables, mandatory temperature checks, closing down of play grounds, installing handwashing stations outside of the buildings to ensure regular washing of hands, placing of hand sanitizers in strategic places, canceling of as­semblies and offering of COVID – 19 testing for teach­ers and students.There is also the need for teachers to undergo some sort of training before schools resume to empower them with skills relevant in tackling the new reality COVID-19 has imposed. All these and more will help to keep the spread of COVID-19 down as well as stem any reoccurrence.

NOT TO FORGET

The gains of the online instruction should not be jettisoned, learners will need to be launched into the global stage and as such the online learning should continue as this will ensure building up of students’ capacity.

Digital learning is the new reality that the COVID-19 has placed on us and it has come to stay and as such, the Nigerian education needs to be sustained on digital level. Similarly, collection of data to see how we fared during the pandemic- if learning really took place, how did the children fare? What were the chal­lenges encountered and way forward?.

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