On the 9th of March 2020, The Federal Ministry of Education ordered immediate closure of tertiary institutions, secondary and primary schools nationwide following the outbreak of Coronavirus in the country, and as part of measures to curtail the spread. This was put in place in a way to ascertain the avoidance of large gatherings as there’s no cure, vaccine, or pharmaceutical drug for the virus in sight.
The federal government compromised on its earlier put_in_place lockdown order and restrictions in a bid to allow the country’s economy to operate and still keep a steady response in containing the virus. According to the President, Muhammadu Buhari “No country can afford the full impact of a sustained lockdown while awaiting the development of vaccines”.
A number of sectors have resumed operations without any back and forth. The resumption of the aviation industry this week is also a testament that the Nigerian government is willing to cope with the new normal occasioned by COVID_19. But the sector that commands over 55% of human resource in the country, the education sector, has been waxing and waning recently.
The academic calendar for primary and secondary schools structured within 12— 13 weeks has been ebbed. Schools shut down before the end of the second term without organising the term’s examination although some schools probably illegally hastened to hold their examinations before the final order by the government to close down.
The tertiary institutions were not spared. COVID_19 came when students were inch closer to sitting for their Senior School Certificate final examinations. JAMB’s UTME examination was also on being the transition criteria from secondary to the tertiary level of education. Students in the final year at different institutions were also affected, they were working on their theses and project essays as at the time the virus crept into Nigeria.
The government after months of unwanted holiday announced the reopening date of July 13 for graduating students in Primary Six, JSS 3, and SSS 3 which analysts thought would be the first phase of the gradual reopening. It should be clearly stated that the Honourable Minister of State for Education Chief Chukwuemeka Nwajuba had earlier played down in one of the PTF briefings on COVID_19 the thoughts that these sets of students would be asked to resume. He even made reference to his daughter who he said is also in her final year in a federal university in Nigeria.
It became a piece of intriguing news to hear that the government again was considering reopening schools and thereby justified the readiness of some state governments (particularly Oyo) who were planning to reopen schools at the time.
The announcement that WAEC examinations would commence by August 4 also geared the generality to believing that the education sector is coming back to life. Meanwhile, a private school teacher who pleaded anonymity described how strenuous it was for schools both private and public(in Oyo state) to comply with the preventive measures that accompanied school reopening. He said, ” this is Nigeria, those protocols are too extravagant for us to sustain and uphold”.
The bomb that would later initiate logjam in the heart of every Nigerian exploded after Wednesday’s virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in the State House, the Federal Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, announced the suspension of the earlier scheduled plan to reopen schools. He continued that until coronavirus is gallantly won, no school will reopen, no Nigerian student will sit for any external examination and that Nigerian students would rather be made to lose an academic year than to be exposed to danger.
Is it that the federal government is not ready to bow down to pressure as they’ve done in other sectors? Or that they have the security of lives of Nigerian students at heart? Indecision, fear, or fear the players in the education sectors will not comply with the safety protocols? Why allowing crowded and unconscious markets to operate and shutting schools; an organized establishment? Let’s leave these burning questions for the federal government of Nigeria to answer.
Yusuf Oyetunji Adua (Yusful) is a professional journalist, content creator and political scientist
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