By: Bamidele Fashube
THE Federal Government has instructed the Environmental Health Officers in the country to consider establishing environmental health clubs in schools across the country.
This is part of activities to ensure schools across the 774 local governments comply with the directive given by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) upon school resumption.
The PTF had earlier announced the reopening of schools after the places of learning were shut down due to the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent disease spread.
“It is the duty of Environmental Health Officers to prioritize the immediate setting up of School Environmental Health Clubs where none existed prior to COVID-19 pandemic and as well resuscitate those not properly functioning,” Mahmood Abubakar, the Minister of Environment disclosed during Monday briefing at the green building in Abuja.
“These clubs essentially run by selected learners will help in implementing directives of the teacher-driven School Hygiene Committees.”
“It is also appropriate to advise school managers to introduce Hygiene and Sanitation Prefects to ensure proper compliance and the daily guidance of learners.”
The minister also announced the introduction of 60, 000 emergency environmental health officers as volunteers to help the government enforce the PTF guidelines on school reopening.
They are expected to cover schools across the 774 LGAs while working with relevant stakeholders at the state and local government levels.
According to him, the ministry would monitor compliance with prescribed standards through a network of monitoring and evaluation teams across the nation and there would be sanctions for disobedience to the guidelines.
His words: “In the same vein, Environmental Health Officers working in the states and local governments are hereby directed to key into the training of teachers, administrators, and other education personnel on safety and hygiene measures namely disinfection, safe distancing, hand hygiene, use of face masks/shields, respiratory hygiene and Waste management.
“They will also play a vital role in the development of information, education and communication (IEC) materials on hygiene and sanitation for use around the premises and in classrooms. EHOs should also see to the provisions for safe and hygienic school feeding arrangements and facilities as food hygiene is paramount in the safe school operation with particular attention to safe distancing in cafeterias. Equally important is for the EHOs to ensure food handlers and vendors in schools are regularly monitored for conformity with hygienic practices and behaviour while feeding learners from farm to fork.
“Furthermore, in accordance with the guidelines, environmental health officers in the federal and state Ministries of Environment, as well as those in the LGA Environmental Health Departments, shall be part of the Joint Assessment Teams for Safe Reopening of Schools and Learning Facilities being part of the Authorized Assessors.
“Additionally, Environmental Health Departments at all national levels are hereby directed to work collaboratively with respective Education Ministries and Departments to succeed.”