Education

Mixed-feelings as schools resume

 

˜ Stakeholders: Govt, schools must ensure teachers, students’ safety

˜ ASUU, NUT: Govt must be ready for any consequence

 

 

RESUMPTION

At last, schools across the country, except in some few states resumed yesterday amid mixed-grills by stakeholders over surge in coronavirus (COVID-19) second wave. KAYODE OLANREWAJU examines the situation

 

 

FG reopens schools amid tight requirements

 

 

 

Mixed-feelings, amid palpable anxiety and apprehension, among stakeholders have continued to trail resumption of all educational institutions as directed by the Federal Government for second term of 2020/2021 school year due to the fret over the surge in second wave of Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

 

Though, the resumption, according to the government, is not without a caveat if the rising confirmed cases of coronavirus across the country in the last few weeks, is anything to worry about.

 

All schools are mandated to compulsorily adhere to all COVID- 19 protocols as espoused by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 so as to contain and avoid spread of the virus.

 

 

The Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, who announced the resumption of all educational institutions, said the health safety measures which are to ensure safe reopening of schools for academic activities would be subject to constant review as teachers, school administrators and other stakeholders are to ensure strict compliance.

 

 

The Federal Ministry of Education, the Minister, pointed out, ordered schools’ resumption on January 18 based on a comprehensive appraisal of the situation it undertook and extensive consultations with relevant stakeholders, including state governors, commissioners of education, proprietors and heads of institutions, staff unions and students, and the consensus of opinion was that the resumption date of January 18 should remain.

 

Parents and respective institutions, he said, must ensure full compliance with COVID-19 protocols, reopening of schools for academic activities will be subject to constant review as we teachers, school administrators and other stakeholders were urged to ensure strict compliance.

 

Thus, the Federal Government, as part of the safety measures in schools, however, reeled out some preconditions that must not only be met, but should also be strictly followed.

 

These are class limits or sizes, hostel occupancy, banning of school assemblies or any other large gatherings, compulsory wearing of face masks and regular washing of hands by all students, teachers, workers; as well as temperature checks and provision of hand washing facilities and alcoholbased sanitisers at strategic locations in all schools.

 

The government also directed the school authorities to ensure a constant supply of water and use of alcoholbased sanitisers, insisting that functional health clinics with facilities for isolation and transportation of suspected cases to medical facilities should be made available.

Reacting to the resumption order, Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Lagos wing, Adedoyin Adesina, said there was also the need for a proper assessment of public and private school’s preparations for resumption in order not to endanger the lives of students and the teachers.

 

Adesina, who said the union has no objection to students’ resumption, however, hinted that the government knows the best, and expected that it would have done its survey to ensure that the schools are safe for resumption. He stressed: “NUT and the entire Lagos teachers are not in support of our students and pupils staying at home longer than necessary.

 

Our members are also tired of staying at home. We have lost much ground due to the previous lockdown and we have to cover this lost ground and this cannot be done while the schools remain permanently closed down because of the virus.

 

“The West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) will start sometimes in March/April and so there is no need to keep the children at home any further.”

 

Therefore, he reiterated that all hands must be on deck to flatten the curve, while the government, school authorities, parents and other stakeholders should also rise up to the challenge to ensure that schools are safe, and that all CIVID- 19 protocols are religiously observed in the schools and at home.

 

“But, if there is any negative impact, the government should be ready to face the consequences,” Adesina insisted, saying all hands must be on deck to flatten the COVID- 19 curve in the country.

 

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives on Friday faulted the Federal Government’s directive on school’s reopening, saying the House Committee on Basic Education and Services was not consulted before giving schools the go-ahead to resume on Monday despite the increasing cases of COVID-19.

 

The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has called on the government to give COVID- 19 support funds to universities and polytechnics in the country to combat the infection.

 

National President, Sunday Asefon said such funds would go a long way in helping schools, especially the tertiary institutions to procure precautionary facilities to stem the surge of COVID-19, even as he expressed delight over the compromise reached by the federal government and stakeholders to reopen schools.

 

Also speaking, National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, had said the union had never opposed government on reopening of universities, and that lecturers were ready to go back to the classroom.

But that the government should provide comprehensive assessment of these requirements should be carried out to ascertain if all these had been done or put in place. However, prior to the fresh directive to reopen schools, the Minister had earlier proposed a review of the January 18 resumption date as a result of the spike in COVID-19 cases.

 

But, this position was, however, challenged by some stakeholders, based on the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF)’s call on governments across the world to spare no effort to keep schools open or prioritise them in reopening plans despite the increasing cases of COVID-19.

 

Reacting to the earlier proposed review of resumption date, the National Executive Council (NEC) of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS) expressed concern about the negative impact of the decision on the education sector, existing loans, investment by stakeholders, mental health of children, teachers, proprietors, parents and vendors, should the government shut down schools due to resurgence of COVID-19.

 

The National President of the association, Chief ‘Yomi Otubela, who noted that NAPPS differs on the review of the date which could keep the schools closed as against the earlier reasons of the association as justification for the demand  to keep the schools open.

 

This was as NAPPS further noted that schools had been at the forefront of strict adherence to the COVID-19 safety protocols as recommended by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) within the school environment.

 

Otubela, therefore, hinted that the association’s position is supported by the clean bills of health received by various private schools’ management during the earlier visits of government’s monitoring teams on COVID-19 safety protocols to schools across the country.

 

He listed the COVID-19 safety protocols already put in place and practices in private schools to include enforcement of the use of face masks for learners, teachers, support staff and visitors; provision of facility to ensure frequent washing/sanitising of hands with alcohol-based hand sanitisers; daily temperature reading of the students, teachers, support staff and visitors to the schools; observance of the physical distancing rule in classes, school buses.

 

Similarly, the NAPPS President stressed that visitors to the schools are made to strictly follow COVID-19 safety protocols otherwise they are turned back from entering the school premises; while no sick learners, staff or visitors are allowed into the school premises; as well as availability of qualified health practitioner(s) within the school environment for monitoring the health of students, teachers and others within the school environment.

 

Rather than keep the schools closed, the association, therefore, suggested staggered reopening of schools where some students attend schools in the morning and others in the afternoon, or alternative days of the week especially for public schools with a high population of students.

 

Besides, it recommended reduction in the hours of learning within the school environment in order to reduce the probability of exposure to the virus, saying that private schools could not afford another prolonged closure of schools to prevent the total collapse of the private education sub-sector.

 

NAPPS urged Parent Teachers Associations (PTA) to form COVID- 19 Compliance Officers among parents to visit schools on a regular basis to enforce compliance. On his part, the Founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD), Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), who also kicked against further shift in resumption of schools, called on the Federal Government against repeated or indefinite closure of the nation’s education system as a result of the spike in coronavirus pandemic.

 

He, however, insisted that waiting indefinitely for COVID- 19 to go was dangerous as the pandemic might last for another one year globally, given the way things were happening by the day.

 

Following the directive by the Federal Government that schools should reopen, Lagos, Ogun, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have keyed into the January 18 resumption, while states including Niger and Edo have fixed between January 24 and February 1 for their state schools to reopen.

 

Meanwhile, as schools reopened yesterday, some parents, who spoke with New Telegraph, said that as they looked forward to school reopening, school authorities are reminded to observe COVID-19 protocols in line with the NCDC’s safety template.

 

This was as they urged parents to sensitise their children and wards on the need to regularly wash their hands, avoid sharing cups, spoons and pens; wearing of face masks at all times, as well as to maintain a level of physical distancing in class, hostel, dining halls or any other place, as well as not to neglect personal hygiene, especially in a period like this.

 

In Mayflower Private School in Ikenne, Ogun State, for instance, students and pupils were mandated to come to school with three pieces of reusable face masks, a bottle of alcoholbased hand sanitiser, tissue papers, among other health items, as preconditions for them to enter the school.

 

The management also warned parents not to go near the students’ hostels while bringing their children to school, even as the temperature of all students would be checked at the gate before allowing them into the school compound.

 

Going by the announcement, the Lagos State Government had on Friday reaffirmed that all public and private schools in the state below tertiary level should resume yesterday (Monday) for the second term of 2020/2021 school year.

 

According to the state Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo, the announcement was in line with the Federal Government’s resolution after reaching a consensus with relevant stakeholders.

 

She, therefore, urged students and members of staff to stay safe and adhere strictly to COVID-19 guidelines, mandating the schools to provide soap, wash hand basins, alcoholic hand sanitisers, thermometers and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) in all public and private schools stressing that washing of hands, wearing of face masks and maintenance of social distancing by teachers and students must be adhered to in order to avoid further spread of the virus.

 

“All schools must ensure strict compliance with subsisting COVID-19 requirements. Administrators of both public and private schools should ensure full compliance with the guidelines in their respective schools as the Office of Education Quality Assurance Team will go round schools to monitor situations across the state,” Adefisayo noted.

 

As part of measures to ensure safety in all primary, secondary schools and government science and technical colleges ahead of January 18 resumption in Ogun State, the state government through Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Prof. Abayomi Arigbabu, also asked parents, guardians, teachers, school administrators and other stakeholders to ensure full compliance with all COVID-19 protocols.

 

Thus, the government insisted that wearing of face masks, use of hand sanitisers and regular washing of hands are compulsory for all learners, teachers and other non-teaching staff, even as schools were mandated to provide infrared thermometers for temperature check.

 

“Regular washing of hands with soap in running water, use of hand sanitisers, observing social and physical distancing should be adhered to, while large gatherings such as assemblies are discouraged,” the government said.

 

Piqued by the surge in COVDI- 19 in the state, the Edo State Government had suspended schools’ resumption, insisting that all education institutions in the state were to remain shut till February 1, when the prevailing realities are to be reviewed to determine if it would be safe to reopen the schools.

 

Following the three students of the Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM) that were tested positive for COVID- 19, the management of the university had on Thursday, last week, ordered the close down of the students’ hostel in the college.

 

The institution said it had since isolated the students and commenced contact tracing of all affected students, while roommates of the three students that tested positive and their associates were being tested.

 

 

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