The federal government on Wednesday in Abuja reversed its earlier announcement, authorising schools to reopen for students participating in Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (SSCE) and Junior Secondary Certificate Examinations (JSCE).
It said the schools under the control of the Ministry of Education would remain close until it is safe to reopen them.
It also cancelled Nigeria’s participation in the West African Examination Council (WAEC) examinations as scheduled this year as a result of the spread of COVID-19.
Also affected by the cancellation are students qualified to participate in common entrance examinations.
A member of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) and Minister of State for Education, Mr. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, had on Monday, July 6, announced that schools would reopen for graduating students on August 4.
But the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, while addressing State House correspondents on Wednesday at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, said Nigerian schools remain closed until the COVID-19 pandemic is brought under control.
Adamu, who said that his junior colleague might have been misquoted, said he would rather prefer Nigerian students losing an academic session than to be exposed to danger.
He also took a swipe at WAEC which he said had hastily announced the conduct of SSCE, insisting that WAEC had no right to determine the resumption date of schools for Nigeria.
According to him, schools will not reopen in Nigeria very soon either for external examinations or usual academic activities until it is safe for children to return to school in view of the astronomical rise in the spread and infection of COVID-19.
The minister also appealed to states which had announced the reopening of schools in their domains to have a rethink, saying it is not safe to reopen schools now and as the minister of education he’s accountable for the lives of Nigerian children.
He said: “I don’t know whether you journalists are misquoting the Minister of State for Education or maybe quoting what WAEC said and made it into a story. Schools under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Education will not be opened on August 4 or anytime soon.
“Our schools will only open when we believe it’s safe for our children and that is when the situation is right, not when the incidence of the infection is going up in the nation. I just want to make it clear. We will not open schools soon for examination or for any reason unless it is safe for our children, even WAEC. WAEC will not determine for us what we do. Schools will remain closed.
“On Wednesday, we called on stakeholders who will tell us the situation and the way it should be done for it to be safe. While the meeting was going on, WAEC announced that they are starting examinations. Let’s see who they are going to start with.
“I will also like to use this position to ask those states that have already announced (reopening), I appeal to them. I think it is not safe. I feel responsible for all children, not just those who are in federal government-controlled schools. Please let’s save our children from this.
“One infected child is enough to infect a whole class. When they close from class, they go into the dormitory. This is not the right time to open schools. I appeal to the states that have already announced to reconsider it.”
Asked if he took into consideration the implication of denying students from participating in next month’s SSCE, Adamu said: “Me as Minister of Education, if I’m given the chance, I don’t mind Nigeria losing a whole school year than exposing our children to danger. WAEC is a parastatal of the Ministry of Education. They cannot determine for the government.”
In his briefing yesterday, the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, said FEC approved an augmentation of the existing contract for the completion of Enugu – Lokponta section of the Enugu – Port Harcourt Highway by ₦25 billion.
He also said the council approved the award of three different roads, saying “the first is Dikwa-Marte-Mungunu road for ₦60,273 billion and the Numan road linking Borno and Adamawa for ₦15.527 billion, and the third is for Gombi-Biu linking Adamawa and Borno also for ₦7.643 billion.”