By Gabriel Dike, Fred Ezeh, Abuja , Paul Osuyi, Asaba and Tony John, Port Harcourt
Anxiety and fears have gripped both teachers, parents and other stakeholders as schools resume today amid the spike in the second wave of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), yesterday, expressed fears about the safety of their members returning to classrooms nationwide against the backdrop of the frightening number of cases recorded daily in recent times.
National President of ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, and ASUP National President, Mr. Anderson Ezeh, said from indications, there were no preparations on ground to show that COVID-19 precautions were in place to ensure safe resumption of schools.
Prof. Ogunyemi said there was no sufficient evidence on ground to show full compliance of COVID-19 protocols as released by the Federal Government in 2019. He picked out two conditions that must be met before resumption of schools, which are readiness on part of schools and assessment of compliance by stakeholders such as government officials, staff unions and students.
He said: ‘’We are demanding that government should take responsibility. We have proposed to government to try virtual learning if physical learning will not be possible. In most schools, infrastructure that would drive online learning are not available.
‘’Our members are ready to work. We want government to guarantee their health and safety. As we speak now our members are being owed four to 10 months salaries. Our members are not ready to work on empty stomach.’’
Ezeh said ASUP has been constant with its position that government and institutions are not ready for resumption, adding there is nothing on ground for safe resumption. Apart from questionnaires sent and filled, there is nothing on ground to guarantee the safety of lecturers and students.’’
He said ASUP members have been directed that any polytechnic where safety measures on COVID-19 is not adequate, they should not go for lectures. The union leader said government had all the time to provide safety facilities in the institutions, but failed to do so and are asking schools to reopen.
The Federal Government want to turn our members and students to guinea pig, ‘’why is government directing schools to reopen when COVID-19 figures are high. This does not make sense.’’
President of the National Parent Teacher Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN), Alhaji Haruna Danjuma, said parents are already to provide basic safety needs of their wards, stating ‘’we have directed all state PTA to monitor the resumption and ensure safety measures are met by schools and parents.’’
He said NAPTAN is desperate to have the children back to schools and appealed to government to ensure schools are provided with safety facilities to protect teachers and support the schools to ensure compliance of the protocols.
President, National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Dr. Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, said the decision to throw Nigerian children back to school was wrong and should be reversed as quickly as possible, expressing fear that such decision could herald unprecedented disaster.
“The decision is a disaster in the waiting. Obviously, the basic safety tools that would make schools safe for children are completely absent in most schools in Nigeria particularly in public schools. Did government screen the teachers and students ahead of resumption?
“Countries of the world are not in hurry to throw children into the schools. United Kingdom school system is locked, so is United States and Canada. So where are we getting our yardstick from?.
“Over 700 people were infected the last time NYSC camp was opened. We have observed that most of the screenings going on in Nigeria, particularly in hospitals, are for people who are seeking clearance to travel abroad.
“In health care facilities, COVID-19 is spreading with little or no checks. Recently, over 25 doctors were infected with COVID-19 in Nasarawa State University Teaching Hospital. In University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, over 20 doctors were infected including pediatricians, and so they would spread the virus among their families.”
He maintained that NARD is opposed to the reopening of the schools, suggesting that online classes should continue as being the case in other countries of the world battling COVID-19 pandemic.
But President, National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Otubela Abayomi, confirmed to Daily Sun that its members have been properly sensitised as regards the COVID-19 safety protocols as advised by NCDC.
“Our members throughout the country have already complied with the safety protocols. They have provided the needed items in the schools. We have also held seminars and trainings for all the stakeholders within the school system. Teaching and non teaching staff were engaged separately on what to do as regards the safety protocols.
“We also engaged with the pupils/students on their expected roles. Also, parents were also engaged on their own responsibilities. We set up a committee called COVID-19 Protocol Compliance Officers (COPCO). They move round the school to check the level of compliance with the safety protocols. Their job is to remind and call the attention of the school authorities to any breach of the protocols.”
In addition to that, he said that NAPPS has directed schools to adopt staggered resumption, particularly schools with high population, so they could spread the classes into morning and afternoon session, even though available data indicated that majority of the private schools have fewer population.
He also confirmed that members have adopted the option of spending few hours in school as against spending about seven to eight hours in school. “Students would be spending about four to five hours in school. We have also adopted staggered break so that all the children would not come out at the same time for break,” he said.
Delta cancels transfer of 4,500 teachers
Delta Government has announced cancellation of recent transfer of over 4,500 secondary school teachers across various communities.
The cancellation, Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, Patrick Ukah, said, is as a result of increasing rate of COVID-19 infections.
Ukah, in a statement, explained that the pandemic has already affected the adjusted academic calendar, adding that transferring teachers at this time would lead to further loss of academic hours as the affected teachers would need time to adjust and settle down in their new schools.
Rivers tasks media on public enlightenment on pandemic
Meanwhile, Rivers has charged the media to intensify partnership with the state government in the the fight against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic through aggressive public awareness strategy.
Commissioner for Information and Communications, Paulinus Nsirim, who gave the charge at a meeting with media executives, expressed worry at the spike in the spread of the pandemic in the state, saying it needed increased media enlightenment campaigns.
Nsirim stressed the need to carry out an aggressive public enlightenment programme to effectively educate and inform residents of the state on the need to strictly observe all the COVID-19 protocols as measures to protect themselves from the deadly pandemic.
“As major stakeholders in the state, it is important that we see this as part of our corporate social responsibility to begin to do something very fast.”