The federal government has reversed its earlier announcement on the resumption of schools.
It also said no Nigerian school will participate in the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations earlier scheduled for August 5 to September 5.
This year’s examination, administered by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), was postponed indefinitely in April after it was earlier scheduled to commence in May.
It was postponed after schools were shut down across the country in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, announced during a media briefing on July 6 that the examination will now take place between August 4 and September 5.
The education minister, Adamu Adamu, speaking to State House correspondents at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided by President Muhammadu Buhari, said Nigerian schools will not reopen any time soon “until it is safe to do so because of the COVID-19 pandemic”.
He said final year students preparing for the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) will not be allowed to return to school contrary to the earlier announcement.
Mr Adamu said the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) cannot determine the resumption date of schools for Nigeria.
He said he would prefer that “Nigerian students lose an academic year than to expose them to dangers.”
“Schools under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Education will not reopen on August 4th or any time soon. Our schools will only open when we believe it is safe for our children and that is when the situation is right, not when the number of COVID-19 infection is going up in the nation. So, I just want to make that clear,” Mr Adamu said.
He said the government will not reopen schools now for examinations or any other reason “unless it is safe for our students because WAEC cannot determine for us what we do so schools will remain closed.”
“Yesterday we called a meeting of stakeholders to tell us their situation and what needs to be done in order to reopen schools but while the meeting was going on, WAEC announced that they will start exams so let’s see who they are going to start with,” he said.
The minister appealed to schools that have already reopened to rescind their positions.
He also said state governments that have already announced the reopening of their schools should reconsider “because it is not safe for schools to open.”
The official also said: “I feel responsible for the children in Nigeria not just those in federal government-controlled schools. Please let us save our children from the pandemic.
“You can look at this scenario; just one infected child going into a class can infect everyone in the class and after classes, they go back to the hostel. Because children cannot observe social distancing as expected. If one child in the hostel is infected, the next morning everybody will be infected so this is not the right time to open schools.”
He explained that what he said was not part of resolutions at the day’s cabinet meeting “but he needed to clear the air on the matter”.
He said certain protocols have to be met and schools have to be decontaminated before they reopen.
Although WAEC is a regional examination written at the same time by English-speaking countries in West Africa, the minister did not explain if other countries will go ahead with their examinations.
Meanwhile, Mr Adamu also said FEC approved an agreement between the Kaduna Polytechnic (KADPOLY) and an investor to renovate 18 blocks of student hostels.
The contract, which is a 15-year concession, is under a Renovate, Operate, Maintain and Transfer (ROMT) arrangement.
“It will take one year to construct the hostels, after which the contractor will run it for 15 years within which they will recover what they have sunk into the project,” he said.