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Schools resume amid coronavirus concerns

Partial compliance with protocols

It was a mixed bag of actions as schools resumed yesterday. While schools resumed in some states, others did not. Also, while there was substantial compliance with coronavirus protocols in some schools in some states, there was little or no compliance at all in others. Other states also staggered opening of schools.

For instance, Delta State government has splitted school hours into morning and afternoon sessions to avoid mass gathering and keep the social distancing protocol of the COVID-19 pandemic. As some pupils were closing at noon yesterday, others were resuming their afternoon session with strict adherence to the rules.

The state Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, Chief Patrick Ukah, warned that any schools caught violating the protocols would be severely sanctioned. At the Government Reserved Area (GRA) Model Secondary School, pupils observed the compulsory washing of hands, even as they wore face masks to prevent the spread of the disease. At the West-End Secondary School, the social distancing rule was observed as students were positioned in line with the protocols.

In Benue State, there was partial compliance with the protocols. Tertiary, post-primary and primary schools in the state resumed normal academic activities with partial compliance with the protocols. This was as the state has recorded about 657 fresh confirmed cases of the disease with 11 deaths.

The New Telegraph discovered that in some schools in the 23 local government areas of the state most students and pupils failed to wear face masks or carry hand sanitizers, while social distancing, which is one of the safety measures against the disease, was not followed. When our correspondent visited St. Dominick’s High School at Tse-Ayu in Makurdi, the Boarding Master identified simply as Mr. Jude, said the school had put in place all COVID-19 measures to forestall the spread of the disease.

He said the normal early morning assembly was also suspended to allow for social distancing. At the Federal University of Agriculture in Makurdi, the Public Relations Officer (PRO), Mrs. Rosemary Waku, said only staff had resumed. Waku said all prospective students would resume on Friday. But at the Benue State University, Makurdi, students, staff and some lecturers were seen surging in and out in preparation for the continuation of the semester examination which was stopped midway because of the strike embarked on by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the outbreak of the pandemic.

The Chairman, Task Force on Intra- COVID-19 University Activities (TICUA), office of the Vice-Chancellor of the institution, Prof. Linus Chia Saalu, advised both staff and students to strictly adhere to the coronavirus protocols by consistently and correctly putting on their face masks within and outside the university premises.

In Abia State, schools remained shut because of the indefinite strike ordered by the National Secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), to demand payment of a backlog of salaries owed its members.

The national leadership NUT, in a letter of December 2, 2020, gave the Abia State government 21 days to clear the salary arrears of its members, among other demands, or risk indefinite closure of schools through strike.

Investigations show that schools in the state are not likely to resume until at least a substantial part of the arrears is paid. The state NUT Chairman, Comrade Kizito Kalu, told the New Telegraph that said the state wing could not go against the directive of the national leadership of the union.

He said: “There is nothing anybody can do about it. Teachers cannot go back to work until there is a directive from the national leadership of NUT.” But the state Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu, said on a radio programme in Umuahia that opposition politicians were inciting the teachers to embark on strike even after paying some months with a promise to gradually offset the outstanding.

He said: “Contrary to the noise we hear, primary school teachers and junior secondary school teachers have been paid up to November 2020, meaning they are being owed one month outstanding.” In Borno State, all schools, both public and private, reopened yesterday. Our correspondent, who went round Maiduguri, reports that pupils and students were seen in their hundreds going to their respective schools.

At the Elkanemi School of Theology, parents were dropping their children at the entrance. Students were asked to wash their hands at the hand-washing points strategically placed at the gate before they were allowed to enter the school premises. They were also seen with their face marks.

A parent at the Elk Elkanemi College, Alhaji Ibrahim Adamu, said he was happy that the Federal Government agreed to reopen schools. He said: “Our children are just wasting their previous time at home in the name of COVID-19. It is really a setback; those who are supposed to be in Primary 6 are still going to Primary 5, which is unfortunate.” A pupil, Isa Ahmed, said he was happy that the school resumed. He said: “I am going to meet my friends and teachers.

We are tired of staying at home. We are going to adhere strictly to COVID-19 protocols for our safety.” When our correspondent asked him if he knew anything about the COVID-19 protocols, Ahmed responded in the affirmative. He said: “Yes, we have been watching it on television daily.

It includes hand washing with soap and running water. In the absence of water, hand sanitizer is being used; wearing of face marks and maintenance of at least two metres distance.” At the Government College, Maiduguri, students were going into their classes, others were discussing the reopening of schools, while teachers were on ground for academic activities.

A teacher, Garba Abubakar, said “as you can see, we have provided a hand washing point and no student will be allowed to enter without washing his hands, and wearing face marks”. In Enugu State, public and private schools reopened yesterday amid strict compliance with coronavirus protocols. The state government had threatened to close down any school which fails to strictly observe the protocols.

The Commissioner for Education, Prof. Uche Eze, said the target was to ensure 100 per cent compliance with the protocols. He said: “We observed that while some schools did not allow students and visitors without masks into the premises, others did. But we have warned them not to repeat that.” Meanwhile, a visit to some schools in Enugu including the Federal Government College (FGC), Day Secondary School and Providence High School showed full compliance with the coronavirus protocols.

At FGC, the Vice Principal, Administration, Uche Uchella, said the school was fully equipped with the necessary facilities and devices that would ensure the safety of the returning and fresh students. Uchella said the management of the school purchased and stationed COVID- 19 water tanks and hand sanitisers at the school main gate and classrooms.

At Day Secondary School, Independence Layout, the Principal, Mrs. Theresa Ajibo, said the school bought additional water buckets, soaps and hand sanitisers to what it had last year. Ajibo said the school made sure that the students had face masks while those without theirs were turned back. However, the principal said that it would be difficult to observe the social distance protocol in the classrooms considering the size of the classrooms.

She appealed to the government to upgrade the infrastructure in the school by building more classroom blocks. In Ogun State, schools resumed yesterday for the 2020/2021 second term. When New Telegraph visited some schools in Abeokuta, the state capital, hundreds of students were at the entrances of their school premises with some of them not complying with the COVID-19 protocols. Schools visited included the Abeokuta Grammar School, Olumo High School, African Church Grammar School, Baptist Girls College, Lisabi Grammar School, St. Peter’s Catholic School, Gateway Secondary School, Macjob Secondary School and Abeokuta Girls Grammar School. New Telegraph observed that students without face masks were sent back and prevented from entering the school premises.

It was also observed that while schools provided soap, water and hand sanitisers for washing of hands, social distancing was not observed. Also, New Telegraph observed that the majority of the schools visited did not provide infrared thermometers for checking the temperature of the students as directed by the state government. Principals of both Senior and Junior schools of Abeokuta Grammar School, Dare Sorinola and Mate Olusiji, said adequate arrangements had been put in place by the school to ensure a safe learning environment for students.

They added that adequate spacing had also been provided in the classrooms to ensure social distancing. Meanwhile, the Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Prof. Abayomi Arigbabu, and his team, went round some schools in the state to monitor their activities. Arigbabu said the monitoring was important to ascertain that all guidelines and measures put in place by the government were followed to curtail the spread of the virus.

The commissioner, who said that schools had returned to their normal hours of 8am to 2pm, emphasised that staggering classes could no longer work “because syllabus has to be covered and also to safekeep lives of learners who used to loiter around before their scheduled classes”. In Ekiti State, some of the schools visited in Ado- Ekiti, the protocols were complied with. Infrared thermometers were used to test the temperature of the students and teachers as they entered school premises. At St Michael Primary School, Odo-Ado, a teacher, Mr. Julius Ayandare, said messages had been sent to parents on the need to observe the guidelines He said: “As you can see, no pupil is allowed without a face mask, after which they proceed for temperature testing and use of hand sanitizer.”

At Mary Immaculate College, also in Ado-Ekiti, many students wore face masks and came to school with hand sanitizers. One of the students, Miss Bola Longe, said she came to school with hand sanitizer for easy and constant use. She said: “My mother is a tailor, so I have five fact masks in my bag. I also have my own sanitizer.” A parent, Mrs. Abibat Salau, said she prepared her son adequately with face masks and sanitizer.

At the Afe Babalola University (ABUAD), students and visitors were mandated to comply with protocols before entry into the school. Earlier, the ABUAD founder, Aare Afe Babalola, expressed dissatisfaction over mass closure of schools.

He said: “The Federal Government should know that schools in Ekiti are safer than those located in the heart of Lagos. We must consider the geographical location. Any worker here who goes to Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt goes for a special test and seven days isolation. This underscored the level of our preparedness.” The state Commissioner for Information and Values Orientation, Hon. Akin Omole, in a statement, explained that the decision to reopen schools in the state was taken to avoid the negative impacts on child health, education and development.

He said: “Re-opening schools would also enable students to complete their studies and continue to the next level without avoidable additional burdens on family income and the overall economy of the people.”

In Cross River State, primary and secondary schools resumed on Monday, last week. The state Commissioner for Education, Dr. Godwin Amanke, had earlier disclosed that schools in the state would resume after the yuletide break, on January 11, 2021. Reacting to the Federal Government’s decision to fix January 18 for resumption due to the second wave of COVID-19, Amanke had said individual states were subject to their peculiar circumstances.

He said: “We don’t have any imminent threat in the state to warrant such a shift: we will encourage schools to observe necessary protocols.” However, our correspondent, who went round some schools in Calabar yesterday, noticed very poor COVID-19 protocol observance. At the Margaret Ekpo Secondary School, Calabar, staff and students were going about their activities without any form of personal protection like the use of face masks, neither were there any hand washing equipment in any strategic position in the school. At Akim Secondary School, Calabar, the attitude was similar as both staff and students did not wear their masks and there were no infrared thermometers to check anyone coming into the school.

Although a bucket of water for hand washing was kept beside the school gate, it was not being used as people walked in and out of the school premises. However, the Commissioner for Health and Chairman, Cross River COVID-19 Response Team, Dr. Betta Edu, said school authorities were trained by the state government on how to observe the COVID- 19 protocols and even given manuals to take back to their schools. She said: “The issue of face masks is the responsibility of the guardians and it is important for children above 11 years.

This is because of the pattern of the disease that has been studied in the last one year.” Wife of the Ondo State governor, Betty Anyanwu- Akeredolu, has urged students, teachers and other stakeholders in the academic environment to prioritize health safety as schools resumed yesterday.

This, according to her, is important to ensure safety amidst widespread of COVID-19. Schools in Edo State are expected to resume on February 1, 2021, in line with the directives of the Governor Godwin Obaseki administration.

Obaseki, at a meeting with the state COVID-19 team on Friday, said the state was moving the resumption to February 1 as a tentative date, owing to an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases among children and young adults.

The governor said the new date fixed for resumption was tentative to allow time for appropriate compliance with the COVID-19 preventive measures. He added that a monitoring team from the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) would oversee compliance before the proposed date.

“Anybody found guilty of any of the regulations would be charged or compelled to undertake community services,” the governor said. A teacher at the Edo College, Matthew Obasuyi, said the new date was a welcome development, since it would enable the government and schools management to comply with the COVID-19 protocols. According to him, the adjustment will only be profitable if the government enforces the rules to the letter. A parent, Blessing Ewemade, said she did not understand why the government should postpone the school resumption date when students from other states had resumed.

Also in Niger State, the administration of Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, approved January 24, 2021 as the resumption date for basics, secondary and tertiary institutions. When our correspondent went round Minna yesterday, all schools, both private and public, did not open.

The Commissioner for Education, Hajia Hannatu Jibrin Salihu, told New Telegraph that after consultation with different stakeholders, all basic and secondary schools would resume for classes on Sunday 24th January for students in boarding schools while those in day schools would resume on January 25.

She said: “The one week is to enable all schools to put the necessary protective measures in place while parents, students and pupils make provision to comply with the COVID-19 protocol in full.” Also, the Commissioner for Tertiary Education, Science and Technology, Prof. Abubakar Baba Aliyu, told our correspondent that all lecturers had been directed to return to their respective institutions from January 24, 2021 while lectures would commence on January 25. Lagos State government yesterday decried non-use of face masks by students outside the school premises.

The government called on parents to ensure that their wards wear face masks while leaving their houses. Speaking during an inspection of public schools to monitor compliance with COVID-19 guidelines in Education Districts I and VI, the Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Folashade Adebayo, said it was discovered that most pupils didn’t use face masks on the street and when leaving homes but only complied with the COVID- 19 protocol when on the school premises.

She said: “I want to advise the parents to ensure that their wards always mask up. It is very sad that we see people and the pupils on the streets without wearing face masks.” Public schools visited included the Government College, Senior and Junior, Agege, Government College Complex Iyana-Ipaja, Dairy Farm Senior Secondary School Complex Opposite Agege Stadium, and Sango Senior Secondary School, etc.

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