COVID-19: UNICEF Backs Govts On School Reopening

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By our Correspdent, Bauchi

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), on Monday, reiterated its support for both the Federal and state governments on the full reopening of schools for children impacted by the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.

Mr. Bhanu Pathak, Bauchi Chief Field Office, UNICEF Nigeria, made the pledge in his speech during the ‘Zonal Stakeholders Dialogue on School Reopening Readiness Template in Bauchi.

The dialogue was organised by the Federal Ministry of Education in collaboration with UNICEF and consisted of stakeholders from the Northeastern part of the country.

While delivering his speech, Pathak, who was represented by Mrs Mairama Dikwa, Education Specialist, UNICEF, Bauchi Field Office, said “as the curve of the pandemic begins to flatten, there is the need to make plans on reopening of schools.

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“There is also the need to ensure that safety preventive measures are put in place as laid down by the NCDC for reopening of schools.

“I assure you that UNICEF is committed to sustaining support to Nigerian government at the Federal and state levels to ensure that school children return to school and ensure quality education and development of children,” Pathak said.

The UNICEF boss explained that, working within the established frame work and guidelines provided by Federal Ministry of Education (FME) and Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) with support from UNICEF/ Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the United Kingdom had initiated plans to ensure continuity of learning while children were at home.

He also called on education stakeholders, parents, caregivers and community members to be actively engaged in preparation for the reopening of schools.

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Pathak further appreciated partners such as FME and NCDC for providing technical and professional support during the development of school reopening readiness template, as well as collaboration toward ensuring delivery of quality education to the Nigerian children.

In his address, Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, the Minister of State for Education, said that the decision to close schools was part of the government’s strategy to curtail the spread of the virus as school environment were considered veritable grounds to spread the virus.

The minister who was represented by Mr Asanbe Francis, Director General Services, FME, revealed that, through the concerted efforts of the governments at all levels, there was a ‘cautious’ belief and understanding that the pandemic curve has started flattening.

“It is in view of the above that the Ministry considers it expedient to hold this stakeholders’ meeting at this time to plan and address the eventual safe re-opening of schools and learning facilities, nationwide,” he said.

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Stakeholders present at the meeting include; Northeast Commissioners of Education, NCDC, members from FME, UBEC, NUT and UNICEF.

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