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Parents, groups protest Enugu’s directives on school reopening

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The Enugu State Government has come under attack from parents, guardians and groups for ordering the reopening of primary and secondary schools today without considering the effect on parents.

The Federal Government had shut down schools in the country in March because of COVID-19 outbreak.

With the country witnessing a reduction in coronavirus cases, a number of states have since reopened primary and secondary schools.

Some education stakeholders in Enugu are not happy with the state Ministry of Education for issuing only a five-day notice for academic activities to resume in schools.

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Those who spoke to The Guardian questioned the state government’s decision to direct schools to reopen without considering the financial implications of asking students to pay their fees within a short period.

Education expert, Dr Chiwuike Uba, said parents should have been part of the stakeholders’ meeting called by the state government before the decision to reopen schools.

He said: “Any stakeholders’ meeting that excludes parents and students is not complete. And decisions reached at such meetings cannot be said to be the stakeholders’ decision.

“I wonder why the government gave less than a week’s notice for schools to resume. Where do they expect parents to raise money to fund their children’s school fees and other expenses?”

According to Uba, the academic calendar released by the ministry of education appears to favour private school owners.

He said: “How does the government expect students to resume the first term, just nine days after the third term? This is despite the online classes most of these students were subjected to during the period schools were shut down.

“This is in addition to financial costs (cost of internet data) and social costs the students and their parents were meant to shoulder during the period, too.”

Uba said the state government should have slashed school fees by 30 per cent for students attending private schools.

An Enugu-based human rights lawyer, Olu Omotayo, said the state government should have considered the adverse effects of the COVID-19 lockdown before releasing its academic calendar.

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He said: “Most schools were giving assignments to their pupils during the lockdown and their parents were spending money on data to download notes. In fact, they did their midterm tests three weeks ago and finished their third term exams this week. All were done online.”

Also, the International Solidarity for Peace and Human Rights Initiative (ISFPHRI), accused the state government of inadequate preparations for post-COVID-19.

The President of the organisation, Comrade Osmond Ugwu, and Secretary, Dr. Jerry Chukwuokolo, said in a statement parents and guardians would be subjected to various levels of hardship due to the financial implications of getting their children and wards back in private schools.

The group said: “Apart from replacing worn out uniforms, lost books and other learning materials, preparations have to be made for transport, school fees by parents and guardians.”

The ISFPHRI said a least a month-long notice should have been given to parents to prepare before reopening schools.

Country Programmes Director, Global Society for Anti-Corruption (GSAC), Mrs Amaka Nweke, said there should have been reduction in school fees to help parents and guardians.

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