At least 27 state governments forced the Federal Government to agree to the reopening of schools on Monday, it was learnt on Thursday.
Following the second wave of Coronavirus, the Federal Government through the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 Control announced in December that schools should not reopen for second term until January 18.
As positive cases continued to rise, Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, hinted last week that the January 18 date was no longer realistic.
“We will have a review”, he said.
Adamu added that a review of the date was likely and promised to take the matter to the PTF for action.
However, states started agitating. Some went ahead to reopen schools on January 11, forcing the minister to call a meeting with commissioners of Education in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Tuesday.
The states insisted that there was no going back on January 18 date in spite of the efforts by the minister to persuade them to have “a rethink because of the need to stem the rising virus cases.”
When they refused to back down, he decided to allow democracy to prevail, a source said.
Twenty seven states voted for the resumption of schools on Monday. Four states opposed the reopening while six abstained, claiming that they had already opened classrooms for the new term.
They agreed to enforce the full COVID-19 protocol in schools.
A ministry source said: “At the end of the day, the Minister of Education said the will of the majority of the 33 states and the FCT should prevail and schools should reopen nationwide from Monday.
“The minister has also secured the buy-in of the governors and the PTF on COVID-19 to reopen all schools.
“About four states wanted us to delay a bit but majority supported the reopening of schools. So, schools will resume from January 18. In every situation, you can never have 100 per cent consensus.”
Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Mr. Sonny Echono, admitted that “there was voting by states for school resumption at the Tuesday meeting in Abuja.
He said: “We had extensive discussions with governors, proprietors of schools, labour /staff unions and students’ representatives. And the consensus is that we should reopen all schools.
“The reopening of schools will be in compliance with COVID-19 protocols, especially strict adherence to non-pharmaceutical procedures.
“The stakeholders have endorsed the far-reaching measures.”
The permanent secretary added that owners of private schools sought assistance from the Federal Government to prevail on CACOVID to extend some palliatives to them.
He said: “They asked whether CACOVID can extend some assistance to them like sanitizers, masks, temperature tools and other non-pharmaceutical items.
“They said those in the private sector can adopt some schools for assistance as part of the National Action on COVID-19.
“We will make all the suggestions available to the PTF.”
The ministry consequently released a statement asked schools to reopen on Monday and ensure full compliance with COVID-19 protocols.
It insisted in compulsory wearing of face masks by all students, teachers and workers in all schools, use of temperature checks and provision of hand washing facilities at strategic locations in all schools, ensuring constant supply of water and sanitizers and enforcement of maintenance of social distancing and suspension of large gatherings such as assembly and visiting days.
The schools are also enjoined to avoid overcrowding, limit in class sizes and hostel occupancy; ensure availability of functional health clinics with facilities for isolation and transportation of suspected cases to medical facilities; adherence to all other non-pharmaceutical protocols, restrictions and containment measures as may be prescribed/ approved by the PTF from time to time.
“These measures which are to ensure safe reopening of schools for academic activities will be subject to constant review as we urge teachers, school administrators and other stakeholders to ensure strict compliance,” the statement added.