The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has urged the Federal Government to bring all stakeholders in the education sector together to deliberate on the way forward before re-opening of schools across the country.
Mr Ayuba Wabba, NLC President, said this in a communique he signed on Friday in Abuja at the end of a joint meeting of the congress affiliates union in the education sector and the NLC Education Committee.
Wabba said the meeting was to brainstorm on measures to be put in place before schools in Nigeria could re-open given the prevalence of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
According to him, the congress is of the view that the schools should provide adequate infrastructure to ensure effective enforcement of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) protocols and guidelines on COVID-19.
“Re-opening of schools need to be done with due diligence and utmost precaution given the overcrowded nature of schools at primary, secondary and tertiary levels.
“Government should bring all stakeholders together the primary and secondary education sub-sector comprising the unions, the Nigeria Union of Teachers, Parent Teachers Association (PTA), Committee of Vice-Chancellors/Provosts of Polytechnics and Colleges of Educations.
“All Nigeria Confederation of Principals of Secondary Schools (ANCPSS) should deliberate on the way forward on re-opening of schools,” the labour leader said.
He said there was need to create a post COVID-19 re-opening plans and strategies based on the NCDC protocol and guidelines.
”There is need to re-adjust the federal budget for education and implement measures to assist institutions with financial burden of managing COVID-19,’” Wabba said.
The NLC president also said that staff of health centres in universities, polytechnics, colleges of education, secondary and primary schools teaching and non teaching staff should be trained on handling of pupils and students.
He noted that it was important to adopt phased/structured education activities, adjust exams and lecture or teaching time.
He called for a National Safe School policies to assist education institutions in conducting risk assessment audit of schools in the country.
He said that the outsourcing policy of security personnel and cleaners should be revisited, especially in institutions of higher learning to enable them have full control of the workers.
He added that this was very important as the private cleaners and security personnel could not guarantee the health and safety of staff and students.
“There is need to provide Protective Equipment (PPE) for health workers and other essential workers for their safety and protection.
“We call for the immediate release of intervention funds to all institutions to enable them provide needed safety measures.
“Apparently, there is need for expansion of classrooms to ensure observance of the social distancing protocol,” he said.
On crisis, Wabba appealed to the federal government to address the lingering industrial crisis in the higher institutions posed by the Integrated Payroll Personnel System (IPPIS).
He noted that the IPPIS issue has the potential of affecting any attempt at re-opening of schools.
”There is need for an elaborate plan to determine the duration of classes, and sitting arrangements to avoid infection.
“There is also need to ensure general decontamination or fumigation of entire premises and buildings, including student’s hostels, classrooms, staff offices, business premises, lecture halls/theatre, health centres and clinics.
“Additional employment of teachers to enable effective teacher student ratio based on the social distancing protocol and provision of out-door learning environment for kids,” Wabba said.
The NLC president also called for the strengthening of e-learning facilities in primary and tertiary institutions through provision of customised electronic devices to all staff and students.
”This is in order to complement traditional class settings and achieve physical distancing,” the labour leader said.
He said that internet bandwidth should be provided in all institutions and to be deployed free to members of staff and students within and around the school premises.
Wabba noted that COVID-19 committee should be put in place in schools to ensure strict compliance with protocol and guildlines of reopening schools.
“This committee will be charged with the responsibilities of ensuring strict compliance with the safety measures and enforcement of regular hand washing with water and soap and hand sanitizer.
” The committee will also enforce daily disinfection and cleaning of school surfaces and compulsory use of face masks by staff, students and visitors,” he said.
The NLC president added that the schools should put in place transparent post COVID-19 plans, including isolation of staff and student who manifest the symptoms of the disease or who have tested positive, without creating stigma around them.
Edited By: Chinyere Bassey/Felix Ajide (NAN)