The Kaduna State Government and education stakeholders, on Monday, published guidelines for school reopening, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among the more than 3.5 million pupils and students attending school in the state.
Dr Hajare Kera, Director Public Health, Kaduna State Ministry of Health, said at the opening of the stakeholders’ meeting in Kaduna, that the guidelines would align with COVID-19 protocols and comply with the Federal Government’s directive for schools reopening on Jan. 18.
Kera said that the guidelines would be based on the current COVID-19 epidemiological data, in the best interest of the those attending school in the state, explaining that so far, the state had recorded 6,001 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 65 deaths, three of which were healthcare workers, with 5,616 recoveries.
She added that 334 active cases were currently receiving treatment at home and at the state’s five Isolation Centres.
The director said that the state had witnessed an upsurge in the number of new cases from an average of 70 cases per week to the current 310 cases per week,
representing an average of 44 cases per day, adding that pupils and students constitute a significant number of the confirmed cases.
“For safe school reopening, we need to have less than five per cent positive rate from samples tested in the last 14 days, but we currently have 15 per cent positive rate.
“With 571 testing positive out of 3,708 samples in the last 14 days, we certainly do not meet the criteria for reopening.
“This will put our pupils and students at risk of contracting and spreading the virus, following the low level of adherence to COVID-19 preventive protocols in schools.
“If schools must reopen, then I strongly advise that actions be taken to enforce COVID-19 prevention protocols,” she said.
The Commissioner for Education, Dr Shehu Makarfi, pointed out that the more than 3.5 million pupils and students in the state lived in communities already recording a high burden of the pandemic.
Makarfi said that of the 3.5 million, 1.9 million children were attending pre-nursery, nursery, and primary schools, while about 600,000 children were in junior and senior secondary schools, with over 400,000 in private schools.
“About 20,000 are in Kaduna State University, 5,000 in College of Education, Gidan Waya, about 13,000 in Nuhu Bamali Polytechnic, Zaria, and about 10,000 in College of Health Science and Technology, Makarfi, among others.
“So, we have two options; to open or not to open. If we do not open, this huge number of students live in communities currently recording high numbers of cases and risk contracting the virus.
“If we want to open, how then do we open safely? The commissioner asked.
Earlier, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mrs Phoebe Yayi, expressed concern that schools had remained under lock and key for several months.
“This necessitated the meeting of stakeholders to discuss and develop guidelines and strategies on safe school reopening, in line with Gov Nasir El-Rifai mantra of ‘putting people first,” she said.
Also, the Commissioner of Health, Dr Amina Baloni, cautioned the stakeholders on the need to take the right decision, stressing that any decision the stakeholders took would affect the lives of the citizens of the state.
Presenting the recommendations of the stakeholder’s Committee on School Reopening, the Secretary, Mr Yahaya Dauda, said that the committee had recommended that schools should be reopened either on Jan. 21 or Jan. 25.
Dauda, the Ag. Director, Administration and Finance, Kaduna State Schools Quality Assurance Authority, said that the committee also recommended that schools should be reopened in phases and shifts.
“Schools will ensure compliance to COVID-19 protocols, such as consistent and correct use of face masks, regular hand washing, and provision of temperature monitoring devices, at entry points of schools.
“Isolation centres should also be established in schools, provide hand washing points, ensure social distancing and ban activities that will attract convergence of several students in a single location, among other preventive measures.
“A State-level Taskforce to be established, that will meet monthly to review progress, as well as a State-level Monitoring Team and a School-level Taskforce that will monitor the implementation of agreed guidelines,” he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the stakeholders at the meeting included heads of tertiary institutions in the state, leaders of private school owners, parents, and government officials. (NAN)