By Vivian Emoni
Abuja, Oct. 5, 2020 The Federal Government has deployed 60,000 Environmental Health Emergency Volunteer Corps (EHEVC) to cover schools, as the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID – 19 has approved re-opening of schools across the country.
Dr Mohammad Abubakar, the Minister of Environment made this known while briefing journalists on the Safe Post COVID – 19 Re-opening of schools, on Monday in Abuja.
Abubakar said that the EHEVC will cover all the primary and secondary schools in 774 Local Government Areas in the country.
He said that the Federal Government, through the PTF on COVID 19, decided to re-open schools, which have remained closed since February to contain the spread of the disease in the country.
According to Abubakar, the re-opening of schools is to be done in strict compliance with the directives of the PTF.
“It will be based on the guidelines for the safe re-opening of schools issued by the Federal Government under the PTF, being a major COVID – 19 containment protocol,’’ he said.
The minister said that the ministry, with the Federal Ministry of Education has been collaborating to put in place necessary safeguards for safe operation of the learning environment.
He added that during the West African Senior School Certificate Examination, the government deployed 40,000 EHEVC to man environmental health surveillance desks and enforce COVID – 19 protocol issued by PTF at the various centres.
Abubakar said that interim reports showed that the project was a huge success.
“The EHEVC will be utilising as was done previously, based on the outcome of their performance in the examination centres’ surveillance.
‘’The 60,000 EHEVC will be working with other stakeholders at the sub-national levels in accordance with the guidelines for the safe re-opening of schools.
“The role of the EHEVC includes participating in developing detailed protocols, establishing and maintaining prescribed Hygiene Standards and practices including Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) provision.
“Additional measures for temperature checks and screening, hand hygiene, access to adequate gender-segregated toilet facilities, adequately ventilated classrooms and hotel accommodation, use of face masks, proper food preparation and disposal of waste should also apply,’’ he said..
Abubakar advised Environmental Health Officers (EHO) to set up schools environmental health clubs, to ensure effective compliance with COVID – 19 guidelines.
He said that the club should essentially be run by selected learners as it would help to implement directives of
the teachers – driven schools hygiene committees.
The minister also advised school managers to introduce WASH prefectships to ensure proper compliance and daily guidance of learners.
He directed the EHOs working in the states and local government to key into the training of teachers, administrators and other education personnel on safety and hygiene measures.
Abubakar said that the EHOs would also play vital role in the development of information, education and communication materials on WASH in the school premises and classrooms.
He said that the ministry would be monitoring compliance with prescribed standards through a network of monitoring and evaluation teams across the country.
Abubakar said that any institutions that refuse to comply with the COVID 19 guidelines will be sanctioned.
He directed environmental health departments at all levels to work collaboratively with respective education ministries and departments to achieve success.
Mr. Yakubu Baba, Registrar, Environmental Health Officers Registration Council of Nigeria, (EHORECON) said that the council is strongly committed to work with the ministry to ensure that schools adhere to PTF guidelines on COVID – 19.
Baba said that the re-opening of schools is in stages adding that the Federal Government opened 19,000 examination centres and the outcome is a huge success.
“Provided there is COVID – 19 pandemic in the country, the environmental health volunteers are going to continue playing their vital roles.
“The EHEVC will continue to man the surveillances desk to make sure the guidelines issued by the PTF are adhered to by all the learning institutions,’’ he said.
Baba urged all authorities of the institutions to effectively work with the EHEVC to ensure that all the students as well as teachers’ comply with the COVID – 19 guidelines.
“The effort is to maintain the safety and healthful living of both learners and teachers as well as the country at large,’’ he said.