Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja
The decision on whether to reopen schools by January 18, 2021 as earlier announced or further extend the closure will be solely taken by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, the Ministry of Education has said.
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, had during a press briefing of the PTF on Monday said the January 18 resumption date was not sacrosanct.
But when contacted on Wednesday on the telephone on when the ministry intended to carry out the review, the ministry’s Director of Press and Public Relations, Ben Goong, said it was the responsibility of the PTF and not the ministry.
He said, “It appears many people did not get the minister right. What he said was that January 18 had been set aside for resumption, but that the date was subject to review by the PTF.
“That statement by the minister has not indicated postponement of resumption in any way.
“The power to say ‘go’ or ‘stop’ on this matter lies with the PTF and not the ministry. If the figures keep increasing, God forbid, the task force can stop the planned resumption.”
The chairman of the PTF, Boss Mustapha, did not take his calls when our correspondent attempted to speak to him on the matter on Wednesday.
But the PTF’s national coordinator, Sani Aliyu, had during a television interview on Tuesday said schools in the country would resume on January 18 until the Ministry of Education announced further directive.
In the midst of the buck passing between the PTF and the ministry, however, the United Nations Children’s Fund has called on governments across the world to spare no effort to keep schools open.
The organisation made the call in a statement by its Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, titled, ‘Children cannot afford another year of school disruption.’
The statement read, “As we enter the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as cases continue to soar around the world, no effort should be spared to keep schools open or prioritise them in reopening plans.
“Despite overwhelming evidence of the impact of school closures on children, and despite increasing evidence that schools are not drivers of the pandemic, too many countries have opted to keep schools closed, some for nearly a year.
“The cost of closing schools – which at the peak of pandemic lockdowns affected 90 per cent of students worldwide and left more than a third of schoolchildren with no access to remote education – has been devastating.
“The number of out-of-school children is set to increase by 24 million, to a level we have not seen in years and have fought so hard to overcome.”