Due to school closure across the country as part of measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, more than 4 million children across Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY) states have been without access to education since the beginning of April. There is need to develop alternative ways and methods of learning to enable children access education and other services that were provided via schools or temporary learning centers (TLCs). Assessing the best alternative tools and platforms (radio, TV, Internet) to reach more children, especially in the hard-to-reach areas and IDP camps will be essential.
During this period of school closure, aid actors need to step up awareness and advocacy on the protection of schools against their use or conversion to isolation centers, decongestion option for IDP camps, healthcare center, markets or for other purposes outside of education.
Clear guidelines on school reopening during and after this pandemic are critical to ensure the safety of pupils. Many parents have expressed concerns about school closure. At the moment, there is no explanation on when and under which conditions schools will re-open.
The Education in Emergency Working Group (EiEWG), through ROHI, engaged stakeholders from different sectors including the Ministry of Education, the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), the Local Education Authority, and Local Government Authority officials and School Based Management Committees (SBMCs) from Adamawa and Borno States through sensitization on the Safe Schools Common Approach, exploring the different risk areas and soliciting for a collective approach towards ensuring that schools are safe.
Some 56 people from Adamawa (five women and 22 men) and Borno (five women and 34 men) participated in the workshop. In Dikwa LGA of Borno State, the decision to convert one of the largest schools (Shehu Sanda) to a COVID-19 isolation facility was rescinded by the Primary Health Care (PHC) coordinator after attending the workshop ensuring that pupils will be able to use the facility for learning once schools re-open across the country.
National guidelines for safe school reopening have been developed to review and measure the readiness and preparedness of the education sector of the country. This is an achievement in terms of getting the country to agree on a policy document to guide the process for re-opening schools at national and sub-national levels. It is also a strategic document for partners and donors to support the safe re-opening process. The Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) and EiEWG will utilize the document to support the training of various stakeholders on their roles in ensuring a safe and protective learning environment post-COVID-19 pandemic.
The sector has worked with SUBEB and Ministry of Education to identify TV, radio stations and set up a calendar for remote lessons and classes. In the BAY states, lessons through radio have started and a survey is being conducted to identify how many children are being reached.
UNICEF and ROHI sensitized 45,036 individuals in 12 LGAs across the BAY states on COVID-19 pandemic and impacts, alternative learning methods, improved personal hygiene and safe return to school. People reached include 30,982 children (19,473 girls, 13,507 boys) and 12,056 adults (3,378 females, 8,678 males) including teachers, parents, school administrators and SBMC members.
Education Sector partners completed 31 handwashing stations in schools and learning centers in Gwoza, Hawul, Jere, Konduga, Magumeri, MMC, Mobbar and Monguno LGAs in Borno.
It is still very difficult to reach many children through radio and TV programmes following the closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Sector needs funding to develop alternative program and strategies. Radio stations’ broadcast coverage is very weak and poor. Solar-powered radios and pre-recorded lessons need to be distributed to reach more children and scale-up the response.