THE initial announcement by the Minister of Education, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau that all schools nationwide should resume on October 13th 2014 over the Ebola Viral Disease outbreak had sparked off a wave of reactions, with stakeholders in the private schools sector coming out heavily against it.
The Minister called a meeting of state commissioners for education and it was agreed that schools should be reopened on Monday, September 22nd 2014.
This decision was taken as a way of accommodating the interests of those who would not want the school calendar to be overly disrupted and the other side which insists that the Ebola outbreak must be brought to a complete halt before schools can reopen.
As much as we understand the concerns of those who say that no outbreak should bring human interactions and livelihood to a halt, we insist that it is better for us to err on the side of caution. The authorities must uphold the safety and welfare of the children and by extension the rest of the family above any other narrow considerations. Schools should be reopened when it is confirmed that the outbreak has been effectively arrested.
The Ebola outbreak is a serious national emergency, and Nigeria has been commended from all corners of the world for the way it has handled its containment. These included the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the New York Times in an editorial. Part of the reason for this achievement was that the nation closed ranks and eschewed cheap politics while tackling the problem. If we had done the same in our war against the Boko Haram insurgency we would have triumphed over it long ago.
Having set a new resumption date, the state and federal ministries of education should focus all their energies towards ensuring that when the children return to school, all strategies outlined towards safeguarding lives will be in place. These include the training of desk officers to handle suspected Ebola cases in all schools, the distribution of equipment and the provision of funds to ensure that all agreed Ebola containment programmes are carried out to the letter.
Above all, parents and teachers must also brace up for hands-on engagement in inculcating the hygienic practices necessary for the eradication of the outbreak in the pupils and students in record time. The observance of preventive measures is very crucial, as prevention is better than cure.
We must also redouble efforts towards the development of cures and vaccines for Ebola. Since it is a tropical disease that pops out of the forests from time to time, we should not rest on our oars until vaccines and cures are developed. We must lead the way in this search.
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