In northwest Nigeria, communities prepare for re-opening of schools shutdown by COVID-19

UNICEF is working with partners across Nigeria to not only ensure that children get back to school, but also to make the schools safe and protect pupils from contracting COVID-19 at school

Dr. Ogu Enemaku, Communication for Development Specialist, UNICEF Nigeria
A boy writing on the board
UNICEF Nigeria
26 October 2020

Aishatu Suleman and Zainab Aliyu are two female teachers in Kano metropolis, north-west Nigeria. Apart from being female teachers, they have many other things in common: both are mothers worried about  the fate of their children in the wake of the long closure of schools due to the outbreak of COVID-19. While Aishatu has a child aged six in Tudun Murtala Primary School in Kano metropolis, Zainab has four children in Basic Education at an Islamiya Primary School in Nasarawa Area of Kano metropolis.

“The problem is that throughout this long shutdown of schools, my children have just been sleeping, eating and playing games,” Zainab said.

Similarly, Aishatu said her children have been “just playing and disturbing. When exactly are the schools re-opening?” she asked.

To address the  worries and questions of both Aishatu and Zainab about the fate of their children, UNICEF is working with partners across Nigeria to not only ensure that children get back to school, but also to make the schools safe and protect pupils from contracting COVID-19 at school.

“In collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Education (FME), we have  disseminated guidelines on safe re-opening of schools and also trained Community-based Management Committee (SBMCs) members,” says  Muntaka M. Muhammad, Education Specialist at the UNICEF Kano Field Office. The guidelines have been  developed by the FME in consultation with the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, and stakeholders.

In addition  to SBMCs, all chairmen of Centre-based Management Committees  (CBMCs) of 44 LGAs of the state have also been trained,” adds Muntaka. “They are already working with  other stakeholders at the community level  to comply  with the guidelines on the re-opening of schools.”

At the training of the SBMCs and the CBMCs, the Executive Chairman of the Kano State Universal Basic Education Board, Dr. Danlami Hayyod said the support UNICEF is providing for the reopening of the schools will help allay the fears of parents nursing doubts about sending their children back to school because of the worries of COVID-19. He expressed the commitment of the Kano State government to have children back to school.

The representative of the Kano State Quranic and Islamiyya Schools Management Board (QISMB), Malam Alhassan Ibnu, at the CBMCs’ training, spoke in a similar vein.

The efforts of UNICEF and partners are already yielding positive impact at the community level, says Hauwa Muhammad, who is coordinator of  Mothers’ Association, a sub-committee of the SBMC at Ja'en Special Primary School, Gwale LGA, Kano State.

“We have bought 200 buckets, soaps, hands sanitizers, 2,300 face masks, first aid drugs and writing materials; and distributed among schools in Ja'en and its neighborhood, ” said Hauwa. “We’ve also been engaging mothers in our communities through house-to-house campaigns on the  resumption of schools for mothers to send their children back to school,” added Hauwa.

The Chairman of the SBMC at Gwale, Kabiru Ado, said in addition to what the school’s mothers’ association is doing, the SBMC is disinfecting the school compound by fumigating the place and cutting grasses that are already grown. "We’re  are also making preparations by replacing some damaged roofs and lots more.”

At the end of the training, there was palpable relief in the looks of both Aishatu and Zainab who were glad that government and partners like UNICEF, with funding from the UK’s FCDO under the Girls Education Project 3 (GEP3), were working to ensure safe re-opening of schools and pledged to play their roles as members of CBMCs to ensure that schools are safe for students, teachers and other stakeholders.