The State has been very apprehensive about the issue of school opening even for exit students. Data from other countries, where schools have resumed show that community transmission in school environments is a major concern. Even countries with strongerhealth care facilities than ours are being very cautious.
In line with the Federal Ministry of Education recommendation and WASSCE timetable, we decided to open our schools on the 4thAugust 2020 for SS3 students only. We put in place guidelines that would ensure that our students resume in a safe environment.
In our pre-opening engagements with stakeholders, opening of boarding houses was discussed. Our State has one of the largest population of boarding students in the country, coming from all over the Country. After consultations with health professionals, we concluded that testing the children for COVID-19 before admittance will reduce the risk of community transmission. This is to reassure parents and even teachers of the safety of everybody concerned.
The State planned and provided testing, free of charge, for boarding students in our public schools and allowed for the management and parents of private schools to make their arrangements to get COVID tests. The two Ogun State run laboratories have a capacity for about 500 tests a day and conduct free tests for traced contacts or symptomatic patients. To meet the additional demand for the expected number of boarding students, the statement from the Ogun State Ministry of Education, Science and Technology listed some private test centers which set up sampling points in some of our Health facilities.
These private laboratories have been accredited by NCDC and Lagos State Government for walk-in tests and charge N50,400 per test but I understand that the Ministries of Health and Education negotiated this to N25,000 for boarding students in private schools that may wish to use them. There is no financial benefit to the State Government.
After reviewing these developments, I have today immediately directed that the Government Laboratories carry out test for all returning SS3 boarding students at no cost. I have also directed that all those who have paid for tests be refunded.
The health of our children remains our utmost priority, however in view of the total number of boarding students to be tested (5,340private and 500 public), and bearing in mind the limitation of our installed testing capacity of 500 tests per day, it may not be feasible for all boarding students to get tested and get their results prior to resumption or even exams which commence on 17th August 2020.
Consequently the State Government has therefore stepped down the COVID-19 test as a mandatory requirement for returning students in our exit classes. We therefore enjoin Private School owners to exercise their duty of care to their pupils. The admittance of students into boarding house in private secondary schools will be at the discretion of the management and the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) of such private schools.
Ogun State Government recommends that students who do not have to stay in the boarding house should attend school from home, especially those with underlying health conditions.
I have also directed the provision of face masks to all students in both private and public schools.
The inconvenience and confusion experienced yesterday is highly regrettable and my sincere apologies to the parents and students so affected.
The quality and standard of education and well being of our children are issues that are very dear to my heart.
I appreciate the cooperation, support, resilience and understanding of all the people of Ogun State towards flattening the curve of COVID-19 in Ogun State. It is my prayer that this phase will end soonest.
“Igbega Ipinle Ogun, ajose gbogbo wa ni o.”
Prince Dapo Abiodun, MFR,
Governor of Ogun State, Nigeria.