Ways To Safe #Re-Opening Of Schools. With the continued closure of schools in spite of gradual ease of other restrictions as part of strategies to curb the spread of COVID-19, many Nigerian students, parents and other Nigerians are angry that schools have remain closed, especially in light of recent unhindered gatherings at campaign grounds in some states in the country. Also, many people have condemned the fact that while government has refused to open schools, markets and religious centres have opened and children are seen all over in such places.
Some have however argued that markets and religious centres are basically in-state movements while reopening of tertiary institutions and unity schools will attract thousands of inter-state movements across the country. Also, universities have students from all states of the country and coupled with this is the additional issue of foreign students. Will you tell them not to return? There is also the issue of dormitories.
For primary and secondary schools, well, I feel it’s not as hard. However, many stakeholders are cautious of the fact that the young ones are particularly hard to curtail. For the graduating class that resumed, there has generally been a high-level of compliance. However, personally, I’ve seen an SS3 class that didn’t comply with social distancing. We have seen the scenario play out in different parts of the world. It’s on a repeat mode. South Korea. Northern Japan. South Africa. Ghana. When schools resume, cases spike and the resumption is overturned.
Now, is there a solution? Yes. The truth is COVID-19 may not go anytime soon. And as the World Health Organisation recently warned, there may never be a silver bullet to fighting the coronavirus. Thalidomide is a drug that caused thousands of birth defects in the middle 20th century. It took five years before the horror effects of Thalidomide could be noticed. Since then, stringent measures have been put in place before drugs are rolled out to the public. There are various levels because of how dire the situation is.
What then is the solution? The ideal solution would have been 100 per cent online classes and assessments. It is what that situation has warranted. However, the logistics to running this smoothly and effectively seems unavailable. Hence, we go for another idea.
The Maverick Solution
Firstly, the reopening of all non-boarding primary and secondary schools must be determined by state governments after preparations (non-travel) similar to the one to be discussed below are put in place. Secondly, we need to improve testing capabilities, in astronomical numbers. Then, in the capital city of each state of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, large open places e.g stadiums and township squares, should be prepared as testing centers.
Before this, each institution must provide the Federal Government with reliable, updated number of students in each state. This can be obtained when each institution uploads a form on their portals for each student to fill. For the boarding primary and secondary schools that don’t have portals, they should create one if they can. If not, they need to manually check their records and give the Federal Government reliable estimates.
Another stroke of the arrangement is partnership with public transport companies in each state, especially those that have big luxurious buses. These buses will be rented. Now wait! In order not to paralyse the regular interstate movements and associated economic activities, only a maximum of 40 per cent of each company’s buses can be acquired. All the school buses must also be repaired (if faulty), serviced and mobilised.
Ways To Safe #Re-Opening Of Schools
Then, buses are to be assigned to each state in Nigeria. For example, Lagos state will have 36 bus units to transport students in Lagos to all other states and the FCT.
Also, school hostels and all managements of private hostels must prepare their hostels for resumption and put in place provisions for social distancing if possible. Example of such is in the common rooms. Also, all unoccupied rooms must be allocated. All existing rooms must be rearranged to provide separation as much as possible. If possible, new windows should be constructed. All fans should work, faulty ones repaired. Also, ambulances should be mobilised and stationed at these travel centres.
After the acquisition and accomplishment of all these, the tertiary institutions, based on updated data and available logistics test capacity and buses – will randomly assign travel dates for students, batch by batch in order not to crowd the centres. When students get to the centers and after showing their means of identification, they are tested one by one and made to wait for their test results – sitting in line with social distancing protocols.
After the test results, which should be as rapid as possible, every student that tests negative is allowed to board the buses and sit in socially distanced manners. Sadly, it is inevitable that some will be COVID-19 positive. Those that are positive will be taken to the isolation centres using the available ambulances. The boarding schools; primary and secondary and Unity Schools are to move last. The private schools should make provisions for their own buses, the Federal Government can give them free tests – as they deem fit. Before this, all school staff should also be tested at the various school premises. All international students are tested at the point of entry, only those free from COVID-19 should be allowed to move into the schools. Staff and students in the schools must also take personal responsibility for their own health and wellness.
Ways To Safe #Re-Opening Of Schools
This way, students can resume batch by batch and school later on, officially resumes. After careful considerations, this may be the only way for safe reopening of schools.