Labour Party governorship candidate in the last election in Kwara State, and two-time Vice President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Issa Aremu has begged the Federal Government to reopen all schools closed in the outbreak of Coronavirus, just to honour the late freedom fighter and South African President, Nelson Mandela on his posthumous birthday celebration.
However, Aremu advised that the best way for schools to avoid COVID-19 infection is to ensure students and teachers wash their hands frequently as well as clean and disinfect their premises as often as possible.
Celebrating 2020 Nelson Mandela Day on Saturday, tagged, “Students’ Lives Matter”, in his Kaduna residence with some students drawn from few private schools in the State capital, Aremu noted that if Mandela were to be alive he would have championed safety crusade against COVID-19.
The former Labour leader said unlike some African leaders who doubted the existence of Coronavirus, Mandela would have encouraged protective awareness campaign against the deadly disease if he was to be alive.
He said, “Mandela, while he was alive, had moral authority who bravely said that his son died of HIV/AIDS. If Mandela were to be alive today, he would have been the first to wear face mask. He would have led by example without doubting the existence of the deadly disease. But if some leaders who are alive today are doubting that there is no Coronavirus in our midst, they are irresponsible leaders”.
Nelson Mandela International Day is an annual international day in honour of Nelson Mandela, celebrated each year on 18 July, Mandela’s birthday. The day was officially declared by the United Nations in November 2009, with the first UN Mandela Day held on 18 July 2010.
Some of the students who spoke to Journalists at the occasion, appealed to the federal government to reopen schools inasmuch as safety measures are put in place for students to obey.
According to Aremu, “What would have been Mandela’s reaction at times like this? Mandela would have called for global partnership and coalition against the pandemic as he rightly did against HIV/ AIDS. The current challenge is school reopening in Nigeria. After four months of closures, there are discussions on possible reopening of schools first for pupils and students in primary six, Junior Secondary School 3 and Senior Secondary School 3 to enable the pupils/students prepare for examinations to complete a phase of their education.
“Despite the enormous challenges, the Presidential Task force on COVID:19 has done creditably well. Also many state governors like that of Kaduna and Kwara have risen to curtain the pandemic. One of the commendable decisions of the Federal government is the the stay-at- home- order issued by the minister of education in March after due consultations with stakeholders and derived from empirical data from Nigeria’s COVID-19 Presidential Task Force (PTF).
“There should be continuous dialogue by all Stakeholders on how to reopen schools with a view of protecting the lives of students and ensuring digital creative learning processes. The timetable for the West African Examinations Council’s (WAEC) senior school certificate examination (SSCE) has been announced to commence from August 4.
“I support the opinion that Nigeria should “negotiate an out-of-season date for WAEC SSCE until the COVID-19 curve which is currently on the rise would have flattened sufficiently. In Kenya, schools will remain shut till 2021. Ghana is already reconsidering the decision on reopening after a , spike in COVID-19. The JAMB Bulletin Volume 1 No. 18 of July 13, culled from a creditable South African source, 775 schools in the country have been affected by COVID-19. About 26 of the states in America are rolling back the plan to reopen schools.
“Caution should be the watch word because even with the adults there is an inefficiency of the NPIs (Non-pharmaceutical Interventions) to control Covid-19.
“Nigerian government should request WAEC to conduct the SSCE when the environment is right out of the regular May/June, November/December seasons. What ever the consensus on schools reopening, there is an urgent need for a systematic awareness about prevention of Virus infection among pupils teachers and parents.
“There should be Installation of hand-washing facilities, provision of equipment for body temperature checks, provision of personal protective equipments, body disinfectants at all entering points to their major facilities, including the gates, hostels, classes, offices, decontamination of the s hills premises and teaching facilities that ensure social/physical distancing in class sizes and meeting spaces among others.
“The most important advice is for all schools to encourage their students to maintain good hand and respiratory hygiene to remain safe.
“School proprietors, headmasters, and head mistresses must ensure that students have access to clean water and soap at all times while on the school premises”.
In another development, Aremu expressed happiness over the reconciliation and merging of the factional Labour unions; Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and United Labour Congress (ULC), noting that if there was unity before now, the body would have achieved implementation of minimum wages with one voice without delay.
He urged the Labour leaders to pull their weights behind the fight against increasing cases of rape in the country.
He also used the occasion to call for the repositioning of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after 20 years of its establishment, suggesting that the leadership of the Commission should be taken away from the police personnel since the police force is perceived in the eyes of the public as being naturally corrupt.
But he added that if police officer must handle the Anti-graft agency, he should be a retired police boss who knows the workings of the system.