‘We Are Not Taking That Risk Yet’, PTF Reacts To Reports Of Schools Reopening Amid COVID-19

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has reacted to reports that schools across the country are going to reopen on June 8, 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Briefing journalists in Abuja on Wednesday, The Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba who is a member of the PTF, noted that the reports are false as the Federal Government is yet to decide on when schools would reopen.

“The material that the Chairman of the PTF spoke about, which is an announcement purportedly from him that we are reopening all schools on the 8th, did not emanate from us. It is not true,” the minister said.

“Until we are sure that these children can go to school, return safely and not bring home with them, this COVID material, and infect people who are more susceptible to the disease than they are, then we are running a huge risk and god forbid that in our hurry, something happens to our children, I’m not sure how anybody will be able to retrieve what would have been lost.

“So we are not taking that risk yet. We are going to prepare as much as possible, within the guidance that they (health authorities) offer us, working in conjunction with the World Health Organisation before we reopen schools”.

Nwajiuba, however, explained that while it is still currently not safe to reopen schools, plans are being made to see how the system can keep running despite the pandemic.


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He said a publication would be released shortly as to what the re-opening of schools should look like, post-COVID.

“We are not talking about coping with COVID – there’s a difference. We’ve come to understand that COVID may not necessarily go away so we expect that we will adapt such that in the presence of COVID, we can still do what we need to do,” the minister said.

“For a country that has over 115,000 primary schools, you will understand that 35,000 of these who are private must agree to set up the same standard in order to allow children to go in.

“If you go to our Nigerian Universities, many of the things we need for social distancing may not be available so you may need to rethink it.

“For instance, which courses should be in school at which periods, we can have semesters within semesters for different department and faculties.

“It is the same we are planning for secondary school reopening. We want to bring in our JSS and SSS children first, they conclude their exams and vacate the place, then others can return.

“We will do the same thing with primary schools, where we will now limit the number of children per class.

“What this may mean is that we may have classes in the mornings and classes in the afternoons so whichever is convenient for you. I am not sure if there will be classes at night, but we can do with mornings and afternoons at the moment,”.

Speaking further, Nwajiuba explained that the government also intends for schools to utilize all their infrastructure.

“Some people will be in the field learning, some would be in classes. Some will be at different facilities all within the school,” he said.

The Federal Ministry of Education had on March 19, ordered the immediate closure of tertiary institutions, secondary and primary schools nationwide, following the outbreak of the coronavirus in the country and as part of measures to contain its spread.

Since then, many schools have taken to virtual means to ensure that classes continue and students remain in touch with their curriculum, especially since a lockdown was imposed on several states across the country forcing many families to remain indoors.

COVID-19: FG Considers Sectionalising Classes Ahead Of Reopening Of Schools

 

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has said that the Federal Government is considering sectionalising classes for primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions in the country ahead of the reopening of schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, stated this on Wednesday during a briefing by the Task Force in Abuja.

He also debunked reports that schools are set to reopen on June 8.

According to him, they are all false.

“Until we are sure that these children can go to school, return safely and not bring home with them, this COVID material, and infect people who are more susceptible to the disease than they are, then we are running a huge risk and god forbid that in our hurry, something happens to our children, I’m not sure how anybody will be able to retrieve what would have been lost.

“So we are not taking that risk yet. We are going to prepare as much as possible, within the guidance that they (health authorities) offer us, working in conjunction with the World Health Organisation before we reopen schools,” the minister said.

[Read Also] May 27: We Must Continue To Offer Our Children The Best, Atiku Urges Nigerians

Nwajiuba, however, explained that while it is still currently not safe to reopen schools, plans are being made to see how the system can keep running despite the pandemic.

He said a publication would be released shortly as to what the re-opening of schools should look like, post-COVID.

“We are not talking about coping with COVID – there’s a difference. We’ve come to understand that COVID may not necessarily go away so we expect that we will adapt such that in the presence of COVID, we can still do what we need to do,” the minister said.

“For a country that has over 115,000 primary schools, you will understand that 35,000 of these who are private must agree to set up the same standard in order to allow children to go in.

“If you go to our Nigerian Universities, many of the things we need for social distancing may not be available so you may need to rethink it.

“For instance, which courses should be in school at which periods, we can have semesters within semesters for different department and faculties.

“It is the same we are planning for secondary school reopening. We want to bring in our JSS and SSS children first, they conclude their exams and vacate the place, then others can return.

“We will do the same thing with primary schools, where we will now limit the number of children per class.

“What this may mean is that we may have classes in the mornings and classes in the afternoons so whichever is convenient for you. I am not sure if there will be classes at night, but we can do with mornings and afternoons at the moment,”.

Speaking further, Nwajiuba explained that the government also intends for schools to utilize all their infrastructure.

“Some people will be in the field learning, some would be in classes. Some will be at different facilities all within the school,” he said.

Lagos Approves E-Lecture Portals For State-Owned Tertiary Institutions

A file photo of Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu. Photo: [email protected]

 

The Lagos State government has approved special e-portals that will allow the state tertiary institutions to commence online lectures as part of measures to reduce the impact of Coronavirus on education.

The seven schools that are expected to benefit from the initiative are: Lagos State University (LASU), Lagos State Polytechnic, Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Michael Otedola College of Primary Education, Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM), Lagos College of Health Technology and Lagos State College of Nursing and Midwifery.

Governor Sanwo-Olu approved the virtual classes to ensure physical distancing among students and their lecturers.

Read Also: Nigeria’s COVID-19 Cases Exceed 1,000 As NCDC Confirms 114 More Infections

According to the government, the move will also help in the maintenance of the state’s tertiary academic calendar despite lockdown occasioned by the pandemic.

All students were, therefore, advised to maximise the unique opportunity to keep themselves engaged while the pandemic lasts.

NECO Result: 52 Percent Fail To Get Credit In English, Mathematics

The National Examination Council is one of the main secondary school examination bodies in the country.
The National Examination Council is one of the main secondary school examination bodies in the country.

 

The National Examinations Council (NECO) has released its November/December Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) with 33,576 candidates, representing 48.68 percent, scoring credits in both English and Mathematics for 2019.

NECO’s acting Registrar, Abubakar Mohammed Gana, made this known in a press statement released on Thursday.

According to the acting Registrar, 70,140 candidates registered for the examination.

He further stated that 50,057 candidates, representing 72.57 percent of the total, got five credits and above irrespective of English and Mathematics.

Gana, in the statement, explained there was an increase in 2019 compared to 2018 with 12,084 to 17,004 this year of candidates involved in various forms of malpractices due to the council comprehensive monitoring by the senior staff that also resulted in a decline in the number of candidates who got five credits and above.

According to him, “the number of candidates that sat for English language is 65,207 out of which 41,214 representing 63% got either Distinction or Credit.

“66,398 candidates sat for Mathematics, out of which 54, 565 representing 82.18% got either Distinction or credit.”

According to the acting Registrar, 62.48 percent of students scored five credits and above, including English and Mathematics in 2018, but only 48.68 percent could manage the same feat in 2019, representing a decrease of 13.8 percent.

The acting Registrar advised candidates to log on to www.neco.gov.ng to access their results.

Italian Education Minister Quits Over Insufficient Funding

Image used to illustrate story: Students wait in the corridor to enter their classroom in the Lucien Colon school, in Lapalisse, central France on December 2, 2019. Thierry Zoccolan / AFP

 

Italian Education Minister Lorenzo Fioramonti of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement said Thursday he had resigned because his ministry is underfunded.

Fioramonti wrote on Facebook that he informed Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of his decision on Tuesday, saying he had taken up the portfolio to “reverse… the trend that has for decades put Italian schools, higher education and research in conditions of great suffering.”

He said the government had failed “to ensure a financial waterline… especially in such a crucial area as universities and research.”

The resignation deals a new  blow to the coalition government formed by Fioramonti’s M5S party and the centre-left Democratic Party just four months ago.

Dissensions have already arisen in several areas including migration.

M5S leader Luigi Di Maio, who is foreign minister, has come under harsh criticism within the party, with several lawmakers leaving to join the far-right, anti-immigrant League party led by Matteo Salvini.

Media reports say Fioramonti plans to form an independent group in parliament to support Conte that may be the embryo of a new political party.

 

AFP

Kano Govt To Integrate Almajiri Children Into Formal Basic Education

 

The Kano State Government says it has concluded plans to integrate the Almajiri children, who constitute the over 40% of school children in northern Nigeria, into formal basic education.

The state Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje said this at a three-day retreat organised over the weekend in Kaduna State, for members of the state executive council.

He decried the high rate of out of school children in Kano, while attributing it to an influx of children from other neighbouring states since the government’s declaration of free education.

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He, however, reiterated that out of school children will continue to enjoy the free education policy of the state government from the primary to secondary school level.

Michelle Obama Asks Vietnam Girls To Stay In School

Former US first lady Michelle Obama attends the United State of Women Summit at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, on May 5, 2018. CHRIS DELMAS / AFP

 

Former US first lady Michelle Obama and Hollywood A-lister Julia Roberts toured a high school in rural Vietnam on Monday, urging a classroom of teenage girls to stay focused on their education to transform their lives. 

The promotion of girls’ schooling has been the cornerstone of Obama’s charitable work since her husband Barack Obama left office in 2017 after two terms as US president.

“When you educate a girl you give them power and a voice and an opportunity to improve their lives and the lives of their family and the lives of their community,” Obama said at Can Giuoc high school in southern Long An province in the Mekong Delta.

Accompanied by Roberts and Jenna Bush Hager, daughter of former US president George W. Bush, Obama encouraged the girls to stay the course of schooling.

“I want you all to stay committed and focused, it will get tough at times — it already has for some of you — but it is well worth it,” she said, before the women sat and chatted with students.

“Even if your families don’t understand that today, trust me they will, when you go off to college or start your businesses,” she added.

With its booming youth population and fast-growing economy, Vietnam routinely outperforms its neighbours in education rankings, especially in math and sciences.

School enrolment rates are also high at 91.7 percent, but the quality of schooling often drops off in rural areas, and in the poorest pockets of the country economic pressures can force girls out of school early.

Student Truong Thi Hai Yen said Obama’s visit — and life story — was a major motivation.

“She kept trying every day to be better and now we can see that she is very successful,” the 16-year-old told AFP.

In her best-selling book “Becoming”, Harvard-educated Obama details how her own education and good teachers shaped her life and paved her path to becoming a successful lawyer, university administrator and advocate.

The Obamas have dedicated much of their time post-presidency to the non-profit Obama Foundation, which includes the Girls Opportunity Alliance initiative that Michelle promoted in Vietnam on Monday.

The former first lady announced last week a $500,000 donation to the Alliance’s work world-wide, money earned from merchandise sales related to her book.

She will travel next to Malaysia with Barack and Roberts to speak at an Obama Foundation Leaders event on Tuesday.

AFP

Lawan Laments, Says Out-Of-School Children In Nigeria Numbering At Least 11 Million

File Photo

 

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan has reiterated concerns about the number of out of school children in the country.

Addressing a delegation of Arewa Consultative Forum which paid him a visit on Wednesday, he lamented that it is not an enviable record that Nigeria has the world’s highest figure of out of school children.

“We are worried and concerned with educational deterioration in many parts of the country and especially the out of school children who numbered about 11 million, some will tell you 14 million,” he was quoted as saying in a statement by his media aide, Mohammed Isa.

“The true thing is that nobody knows the figure. The figure could be much more than that because we are poor with our statistics.

“Majority of these out-of-school children are in the northern part of Nigeria. And this is the highest in the world. It is not an enviable position.

“These out of school children are our responsibility. We owe them, because it is not a privilege, it is their right to be in school. We shouldn’t allow them to continue to stray in the street.

“Whether we call them almajiri or not, these are the leaders of tomorrow and there is going to be a widening gap if such people are left uneducated. They will also contribute security challenge to us if they have not already,” Lawan said.

Read Also: ‘I Believe In Freedom Of Expression’, Says Senator Sponsoring Social Media Bill

He further stated that the Senate is not unmindful of the challenges that the country is currently facing, noting that the north particularly faces more security challenges than other parts of the country.

“Before, the north was safer than many parts of the country. Today the north is worse in terms of security. So we have to work hard with the executive arms of government to deal with the security challenges as much as we can,” he said.

Moving to other matters, the Senate President explained reasons for the plans by the upper legislative chamber to hold roundtable conferences on power, solid minerals and agriculture sub-sectors.

Lawan said the power sector has witnessed a lot of reforms the climax of which was the privatization of the Generation Companies (GENCOs) and Distribution Companies(DISCOs).

“But I think the time has come for us to review what the GENCOs and DISCOs have been able to do since those operators took over from the Federal government of Nigeria.

“Of course, everybody agrees that they have not done very well. We cannot continue to be lamenting and do nothing.

“So we think that we should hold a roundtable Conference and tell ourselves the truth. This thing is not working. We can’t go on like this.

“Without power, we can’t develop this country at all. The insecurity can be related to unemployment among our youths. With improved power supply, definitely there will be more employment opportunity for our youth.

“So we are going to hold that roundtable Conference and we believe that at the end of the day, we should come up with ways and means and ideas on how to move forward.

“This we are not going to do alone. We have to involve the executive arm of government and I’m happy that the President particularly is feeling the same way,” he said.

On Agriculture, the Senate President said there is need for the government to come up with a roadmap and strategy clearly defined targets between now and 2023.

The Senate President also said there is need for a clearly defined policy on solid minreals sub-sector.

“We have to have a policy of supporting truly committed companies which want to do mining.

We believe that if Nigeria relies on solid minerals alone, we can make this country better.

“So we are going to look into the solid minerals sub-sector and see how we can come with legislation that will support it, ” he said.

Earlier, the ACF chairman, Alhaji Musa Liman Kwande told the Senate President that the forum will appreciate it if the railway and road network projects are simultaneously pursued from the North and South to assuage the fears of projects being abandoned after this administration.

He also sought support for the ACF 20th anniversary coming up in March 2020.

Our Educational System Is On The Verge Of Collapse – Chidoka

 

A former Minister of Aviation, Mr Osita Chidoka, says the nation’s educational system is on the verge of a collapse.

According to him, Nigeria has not met the hopes and aspirations of the younger ones since its independence in 1960.

“Is this the Nigeria that was the hope and aspirations of 1960? If a child has great talents, will Nigeria make it possible for him to unfold those potentials? I doubt that very much,” he said during an interview on Channels Television’s Hard Copy.

“What is happening is that 60 years after independence, we cannot export groundnut out of Nigeria. 60 years out of our independence, our educational system is on the verge of collapse”.

When asked if the nation faces a bleak future when compared to its journey since independence, the former aviation minister believes Nigeria “was at its finest immediately after the civil war.”

“We took our deliberate decisions to build back a nation. That was a Nigeria that went ahead to say no victor no vanquish.

“That was the Nigeria that introduced the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) that took Nigeria from their various communities to where they have never been to,” he said.

Chidoka, however, said he believes that there is hope for Nigeria in the years ahead, especially with the right combination of technology innovation and talent on the part of the younger generation.

Budget For Education Is Not Encouraging, Senators Decry

A file photo of lawmakers in the Senate Chamber.

 

 

The lawmaker representing Akwa Ibom South district, Senator Eyakenyi Etim, has faulted the amount of fund allocated to the education sector in the budget proposal for the 2020 fiscal year.

She described the money as “not encouraging” during Thursday’s plenary on the second day of debate on the 2020 Budget estimates in the Senate chamber of the National Assembly in Abuja.

Senator Etim noted that while the executive and parliamentary “have the best of leadership”, the country must improve education if it wants to grow.

Her colleague from Oyo South district, Senator Kola Balogun, supported the lawmaker’s position and called for better funding of the sector.

The Senate confirmed the positions of the lawmakers on its Twitter handle:

Top Key Facts On How Education Is Under Attack In West And Central Africa

 

About thirty years ago,  governments around the world adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, however, the right to an education is being violated in communities hit by conflict in West and Central Africa.

According to a report by UNICEF on the region in focus, right now, nearly two million children are being robbed of education in the region due to violence and insecurity in and around their schools.

The report titled ‘Education Under Threat In Central and West Africa’, reveals that in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Niger and Nigeria, a surge in threats and attacks against students, teachers and schools – on education itself – is casting a foreboding shadow upon children, their families, their communities and society at large.

Below are more key facts as stated in the report by UNICEF.

1. The number of schools forced to close due to rising insecurity in conflict-affected areas of West and Central Africa tripled between the end of 2017 and June 2019.
As of June 2019, 9,272 schools were closed in the region, affecting more than 1.91 million children and nearly 44,000 teachers.

2. The increasing number of children forced out of school due to violence in West and Central Africa contributes to a total of 40.6 million primary and lower secondary school-aged children who are out of school in the region. About one in four children globally who need humanitarian support – including education and other services critical to learning – live in just 10 countries in West and Central Africa.

3. Nearly half of the schools closed across the region due to attacks, threats of attack and increasing violence are located in the northwest and southwest Cameroon; 4,437 schools there closed as of June 2019, pushing more than 609,000 children out of school.

4. More than 2,000 schools are closed in Burkina Faso, along with more than 900 in Mali, due to growing violence across both countries.

5. The number of schools closed due to violence in the four countries affected by crisis in the Lake Chad Basin – Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria – stayed at roughly the same high level, varying only from 981 to 1,054, between the end of 2017 and June 2019.

6. Between April 2017 and June 2019, the countries of the central Sahel – Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger – witnessed a six-fold increase in school closures due to violence, from 512 to 3,005.

Note: References to school closures include schools closed or non-operational.
Sources of data: Ministries of Education, humanitarian partners and UNICEF.

READ ALSO: Education, The Way To Overcome Poverty – Buhari

Cameroon. Fanta, 14, attends school near the refugee settlement where she landed after the Boko Haram armed group attacked her family, killing her father and brother, and kidnapping her sister. Kidnapped girls are often forced into child marriage – not what Fanta wants for her future. She hopes to study and become a dressmaker. Credit: UNICEF
Nigeria: On the outskirts of Banki, a town beset by violence and conflict, a row of old desks lies across the road. Beyond the desks, homes and shops are deserted because of the dangers nearby. © UNICEF/UN0322365/KOKIC
Northeast Nigeria. Mohammed,12, attends a school in Banki that was reopened after being attacked. With support from UNICEF, the school now includes a high-perimeter wall, gates, and teachers trained to provide psychosocial support to children affected by conflict.

UNICEF’S A Call To Action

More than ever, governments today must reaffirm their commitment to protecting education from attack and providing the resources needed to help their youngest citizens to keep learning.

Now is the time for renewed efforts to make sure the potential of a generation of young people is not wasted.

In a bid to stop attacks and threats against schools, students, teachers, and other school personnel in West and Central Africa – and to support quality learning for every child in the region, governments, armed forces, and other parties to conflict and the international community must take concerted action.

Some of such actions include:

Health And Education, ‘Best Asset To Give’ The People – Buhari

Minimum Wage: Buhari Meets With Implementation Committee, To Receive Report
(FILE) President Muhammadu Buhari speaks during a meeting at the State House in Abuja.

 

 

The President has highlighted the importance of health and education to the well-being of the people and the development of the nation.

He said his administration would maintain focus on them but would require the support of well-to-do individuals in Nigeria to achieve success in these areas.

President Muhammadu Buhari lauded the attainment of three years without a recorded polio incident in the country.

He noted that the feat was achieved by his administration with local and international support, saying it was something not only to cherish but one that also requires sustained vigilance.

“The best asset to give to the people is health and education,” the President was quoted as saying on Friday in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu.

“You free them from the tendencies of under-development, especially religious and ethnic manipulations which are challenges facing us at this stage of our development,” said President Buhari who received former US Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr Andrew Young, and board members of Emeka Offor Foundation in Nigeria.

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He, however, expressed optimism that the challenges would wither away with time, saying, “We have to march gradually.”

“It is impossible to be in a hurry. We are seeking inclusive development without leaving a majority of our people behind,” the President added.

He commended the social and humanitarian activities of Sir Emeka Offor, especially in the areas of education and health.

President Buhari said, “You are translating the success you achieved into social service. This is what the government is doing, so you are helping us in many ways.

“I commend your activities in the area of health and education to other successful Nigerians.”

In his address, Ambassador Young expressed happiness with the Buhari administration’s effort toward polio eradication.

He also commended the President’s leadership of the country, saying, “At a time when nations of the world are pulling apart, we are happy that Nigeria is stable and secure under you.

“We will continue working with Nigeria because we consider ourselves as part of the family.”