By James Ogunnaike
ABEOKUTA — Ogun State government has made a U-turn, making COVID-19 tests free for all returning SS3 boarding students.
Governor Dapo Abiodun, on Monday, ordered the stepping down of the COVID-19 test as a mandatory requirement for returning students in the exit classes, and equally directed that the “government laboratories carry out tests for all returning SS3 boarding students at no cost”.
Those that have paid for tests will be refunded.
Governor Abiodun, who gave the directives while reacting to the protest embarked on by parents of final year students in private secondary schools in the state, following COVID-19 test levy of N25,000 urged private school owners to exercise their duty of care to their pupils.
According to the governor, “the admittance of students into boarding house in private secondary schools will be at the discretion of the management and the Parents Teachers Association, PTA, of such private schools.”
Governor Abiodun, in a statement, said: “Ogun State government recommends that students who do not have to stay in the boarding house should attend school from home, especially those with underlying health conditions.
“I have also directed the provision of face masks to all students in both private and public schools. The inconvenience and confusion experienced yesterday are highly regrettable and my sincere apologies to the parents and students so affected.
“The quality and standard of education, and well being of our children are issues that are very dear to my heart.
“The state has been very apprehensive about the issue of school opening even for exit students. Data from other countries, where schools have resumed, show that community transmission in school environments is a major concern.
“Even countries with stronger health care facilities than ours are being very cautious”.
“In line with the Federal Ministry of Education recommendation and WASSCE timetable, we decided to open our schools on August 4, for SS3 students only. We put in place guidelines that would ensure that our students resume in a safe environment.”
On the test fee, he noted that: “private laboratories have been accredited by NCDC and Lagos State government for walk-in tests and charge N50,400 per test.
“But I understand that the Ministries of Health and Education negotiated this to N25,000 for boarding students in private schools that may wish to use them. There is no financial benefit to the state government.
“The health of our children remains our utmost priority. However, in view of the total number of boarding students to be tested (5,340 private and 500 public), and bearing in mind the limitation of our installed testing capacity of 500 tests per day, it may not be feasible for all boarding students to get tested and get their results prior to resumption or even exams, which commence on August 17.
“I appreciate the cooperation, support, resilience and understanding of all the people of Ogun State towards flattening the curve of COVID-19. It is my prayer that this phase will end soonest.”
Recall that each student returning to school was to pay N25,000 for a mandatory COVID-19 test.
However, parents of students attending private schools in Ogun State, on Sunday, trooped out to protest the government’s decision to charge for the testing, as schools resume on Tuesday, August 4.