…We won’t reopen soon – FG
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
THE Federal Government today said that Nigerian schools will not reopen any time soon until it is safe to do so because of the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic.
The Federal Government also said that the West African Examinations Council, WAEC, cannot determine the resumption date of schools for Nigeria.
The Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu stated this while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the 7th virtual Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Mallam Adamu said that final year students preparing for the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) will not be allowed to return to school contrary to what had earlier been believed because it was not yet safe.
The Minister said he would prefer that Nigerian students lose an academic year than to expose them to dangers.
He appealed to States that have announced the resumption of schools in their states to reconsider their position so as not to jeopardize the lives of the students.
Recall that this year’s examination, administered by WAEC, was postponed indefinitely in April after it was earlier scheduled to commence in May because schools were shut down across the country in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
However, Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, announced during a media briefing on Monday, July 6, 2020, that the exam will now take place between August 4 and September 5.
But commenting on the proposed reopening schools for academic activities, Adamu said, “I don’t know whether you journalists are misquoting the Minister of State for Education or maybe quoting what WAEC said and made it into a story.
“Schools under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Education will not be opened on August 4 or anytime soon.
“Our schools will only open when we believe it’s safe for our children and that is when the situation is right, not when the incidence of the infection is going up in the nation. I just want to make it clear.
“We will not open soon for examination or for any reason unless it is safe for our children, even WAEC. WAEC will not determine for us what we do. Schools will remain closed.
“Yesterday (Tuesday), we called on stakeholders who will tell us the situation and the way it should be done for it to be safe. While the meeting was going on, WAEC announced that they are starting examinations. Let’s see who they are going to start with.
“I will also like to use this position to ask those states that have already announced (reopening), I appeal to them, I think it is not safe. I feel responsible for all children, not just those who are in federal government-controlled schools. Please let’s save our children from this.
“One infected child is enough to infect a whole class. When they close from the class they go into the dormitory, this is not the right time to open schools. I appeal to the states that have already announced to reconsider it.”
When asked if Nigeria will be the only country to miss out on the WAEC examinations, he said “me as Minister of Education, if I’m given the chance, I don’t mind Nigeria losing a whole school year than exposing our children to danger. WAEC is a parastatal of the Ministry of Education, they cannot determine for the government what it does.”
The Minister also said that FEC approved an agreement between the Kaduna Polytechnic (KADPOLY) and an investor to renovate 18 blocks of student hostels.
“The contract which is a 15-year concession at the cost of N744,264 million is under a Renovate Operate, Maintain and Transfer (ROMT) arrangement.
“It will take one year to construct the hostels, after which the contractor will run it for 15 years within which they will recover what they have sunk into the project.
“There are 18 blocks of hostels and each room in a block will house four students. The total number of students to be housed will be 4,032.”
The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola while briefing said, “The Ministry of Works and Housing presented two memoranda. The first one was to aid the completion of the Enugu-Lokponta section of the Enugu- Port Harcourt highway, it was the augmentation of an existing contract by N25 billion, the council approved that augmentation.
“The second memoranda was the award of three different roads. The first is Dikwa-Marte-Mungunu road for N60. 273 billion and the Numan road linking Borno and Adamawa for N15.527 billion and the third is for Gombi-Biu linking Adamawa and Borno also for N7.643 billion.”
The Minister said that the contractor handling the Abuja-Akwanga-Keffi road has not left the site although activities may not be seen as busy as before because of the prevailing circumstances in the country.
He said,” many of the contractors have reduced the workers on site because of the guidelines we have issued as a country in terms of social distancing. Only 11 contractors executing 53 projects in 20 cities were allowed to resume work in the first phase of ease of the lockdown. So we are bound by government policy. ”
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama said that the Ministry presented its scorecard to the council and the need to changing the foreign policy direction of the country.
He said, ” We need to have all Nigerian meetings of stakeholders to look at our foreign policy and to review our foreign policy and to see in which direction it should be going. So we have started in that process of organizing this and we have some seminars that we are putting in place a mechanism for doing that.
“Then another objective of Mr. President is lifting a hundred million of Nigerians out of poverty over the next ten years. A number of proactive projects we have executed have also sought to contribute to that.”