There is no gain saying the fact that education drives development in any given society. The old but popular maxim, if you think education is expensive then try ignorance, attest to the importance attached to the education sector. However, the nation is painfully caught in between what many considered as a matter of life and death, whether to reopen schools and get our children infected with the deadly coronavirus disease or that the schools remain shut, let the children wallow in ignorance and deprivation as long as the authorities deem it fit. From the Federal Government perspective, it is like embarking on a suicide mission to allow Nigerian pupils and students who are in their final year to sit for the First School Leaving Certificate Examination and the West African Examination Council (WAEC) on account of the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic. The Minister of Education, Alhaji Adamu Adamu had announced the cancellation and indefinite suspension of the resumption date of August 12, 2020 earlier fixed for pupils and students to return to school preparatory for the forthcoming examinations.
Ever since the pronouncement was made by the Federal Ministry of Education, parents and interest groups in the education sector have been looking at the development from different angles. While some see the indefinite postponement of the reopening of schools as a step in the right direction, others lament the fate that will befall our young minds who are likely to miss out of the coming examination and the negative impact it would have on them. Already it is estimated that Nigeria may witness over 10 million children dropping out of school, especially the girl-child, should the crisis in the sector linger on. The twists and turns in the sector appears to be taking a dangerous dimension just as Cross-River, Ebonyi among other states in the South-West geopolitical zone are said to have opted out and set to ignore the Federal Government stand on the issue. The defiant states, leveraging on the provisions of the Constitution which puts education on the concurrent list, thereby giving the federal and state government power to legislate on the matter, insist it would go ahead with the planned examination and that the August 12, 2020 resumption date for final year students to get prepared remains sacrosanct.
Controversial as the decision may seem, we advise the federal government to soft pedal by going into dialogue with the states and critical interest groups in the sector to arrive at an amicable and enduring solution in order not to jeopardize the future of the Nigerian child who has been at the receiving end amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. After all the report has it that states such as Cross-River have taken the bold step by putting in place every precautionary measures to check the spread of the virus at the community level. The state, according to the report, has mass-produced face masks for its citizens amongst other preventive guidelines as spelt out by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 pandemic in readiness for the resumption of academic activities. The public and private schools should also be monitored to ascertain the extent of their preparedness bearing in mind the demands of the PTF and health personnel on COVID-19 before such schools could be permitted to operate or open its doors for students preparing for their final examination.