Schools reopening: Students" future is bigger than COVID-19

 






Schools reopening: Students" future is bigger than COVID-19


By Ibe Pascal Arogorn


In Nigeria now, confusion everywhere, it has  degenerated to Fuji house of commotions. Everybody or organization at a  point in time makes basic decisions with negative effect - it is quite degrading and bkame-worthy .


ASUU, having called off a nine month strike on December 23 2020, university students are faced with the arduous Coronavirus pandemic. In my previous article titled; "another lockdown looms - varsities students are becoming scotched", I emphasized much on the need for students to go back to schools. After 8 to/9 months of absence from school, the old knowledge must have passed away. But the so called self centered leaders don't care, they just do what they want.


It is garbage in, garbage out - a nation in a state of bewilderment 


On January 11, The Punch reported how the branches of the Academic Staff Union of Universities on Sunday assessed COVID - 19 protocols in the universities and said the institutions were not ready for safe reopening.


The chapters of the union , in separate interviews with The PUNCH , commented on the directive of the National Universities Commission that universities could resume on January 18, but must adhere to COVID -19 protocols in hostels and lecture halls .

ASUU said although its members were ready to start work , government had not put measures in place for safe reopening of the schools.


ASUU’ s concern came amid coronavirus cases and deaths , which rose to 99, 063 and 1, 350 respectively on Saturday .


The union Chairman at the Obafemi Awolowo University , Osun State , Dr Adeola Egbedokun , in an interview with one of our correspondents, said classroom and hostel situations in universities did not in any way conform with COVID - 19 protocols.

Egbedokun further said no preparations had been made so far for the safe re - opening of the universities and urged parents to insist on safety before re -opening .


He said , “ COVID -19 is very real and this second wave is as real as described . We cannot afford to toy with our health and the health of our dear students in the name of resumption, which is politically motivated .


“ There are no preparations for safe re -opening of the universities and I think parents must insist on safe re - opening . The current classroom and hostel configurations in our universities do not in any way conform with the PTF ( Presidential Task Force) on COVID -19 protocols . There is no way universities can achieve that. I have said this elsewhere , that rather than for government to have addressed the obvious deficits in the public universities during the lockdown and strike , they were playing to the gallery . ”


But the OAU spokesperson , Abiodun Olanrewaju, said the university management was ready for resumption and had put in place “ a lot in relation to the COVID - 19 protocols ” in a bid to ensure safety.


ASUU at the Federal University of Agriculture , Abeokuta said the university was not ready to cope with COVID - 19 challenges.


The Chairman of ASUU-FUNAAB, Dr Adebayo Oni, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Sunday , stated, “ The lectures halls are overcrowded. As of today, in my own campus, I have not seen any facility for hand washing Who is to provide sanitisers? Do you expect lecturers to provide sanitisers for themselves?


“ Fumigation of the environment from time to time should be done , How do you cope with students surge and the challenge of power supply ?”


Oni said the union had observed that conducting physical lectures with students would be more disastrous .


He described as alarming , figure of COVID - 19. He said , “ It is definitely a threat to the resumption of academic activities .


“ The fact is that under this circumstance and looking at the threat of the figure, going physical with students would be more disastrous . Conducting physical session , physical lectures with students would be more disastrous .


“ The truth of the matter is that we now propose a mixed model of online teaching and probably some level of physical teachings.


“ Even the online teaching also comes with own facilities which are not readily available .


“ We don’ t want to be pessimistic to say that it is not going to be workable . However , it is going to be at the risk of our lives and the lives of our students if the required facilities are not provided by the government .


“ The truth is that the facilities to cope with the pandemic are not available in our institutions. It appears the government is not ready and our institutions are not helpful. 


Also , the Chairman of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University branch of ASUU , Dr Musa Babayo, in a text message sent to our one of our correspondents, said that the government and institutions did not show any sign of seriousness in handling COVID -19 issues when the union was on strike .


He said that ASUU in the ATBU had yet to see any tangible improvement in students ’ hostel accommodation , classrooms and other things needed for COVID - 19 protocols .

Babayo who said that if the Federal Government had released funds to universities , proper arrangements for the protocols would have been made by the institutions.


He said , “ The coast is now very clear since has ASUU suspended its strike and it has gone further to show how government and institutions are not serious in the handling universities, particularly the issues of COVID - 19.


“ When you talk about ATBU and resumption whether ASUU is satisfied, I can tell you that we have yet to see any tangible improvement , whether in hostel accommodation , classrooms and other things needed for COVID - 19 protocols. ”


But the Public Relations Officer of the university , Bauchi , Abdulkadir Shehu , told one of our correspondents that the resumption of students of the institution had yet to be announced.


He said , “ Yesterday ( Saturday) fumigation of the school at both the Yelwa and Gubu campuses commenced and it will soon be concluded . ”


The Chairman of ASUU at the University of Jos , Dr Lazarus Maigoro , said the association was concerned about the second wave of COVID - 19.


He , therefore , urged the management of the university to ensure compliance with COVID -19 protocols on resumption.

Maigoro who expressed concern over the second wave of COVID -19 said his members expected the university authority to comply with the COVID -19 protocols to contain the spread of the disease in the institution


The Senate of UNIJOS will on Monday ( today) hold a meeting to decide whether the institution will reopen for academic activities on January 18, 2021.


The institution ’ s Deputy Registrar , Information and Publications, Abdullahi Abdullahi , disclosed this to one of our correspondents in Jos on Sunday.

Abdullahi said , “ We don’ t know yet when UNIJOS will resume. The Senate will be meeting tomorrow ( Monday ) and that is where they will decide when the institution will reopen. ”


At the University of Calabar, the union Chairman , Dr John Edor , told The PUNCH that the association would not allow its members to be exposed to health hazards.

Edor stated , “ As a union , we are not too quick to talk. We are not too fast to become meddlesome. They have said schools are permitted to resume on the 18th of January , 2021. If by then we see that the necessary things are not put in place for the resumption, the union will come up with a position because we are not ready to expose our members to health hazards.


“ That was why we went on strike, asking for revitalisation of public universities . Revitalisation simply means conducive theatres , conducive hostels, offices , laboratories and libraries .


“ That is why we are saying let us wait till 18th of January and see how prepared Nigerian public universities are in the face of the second wave of COVID -19 which has come up with a more ferocious variant . ”


At the University of Port Harcourt , ASUU Chairman , Dr Austen Sado, said there would be a spike in coronavirus cases .


He stated , “ We have not been invited to inspect any facility in order to determine its suitability. So , we will wait until we get clarification on the resumption, then we will know whether there are things to contend with . ”


Asked if he feared a spike ahead of the school resumption, he said he had seen some measures put in place by the university, but that the possibility of an increase in cases existed .


But Registrar of University of Lagos , Mr Oladejo Azeez, said the decision on resumption of academic activities would be taken by the school’ s Senate on Wednesday.

Azeez in an interview with The PUNCH, said the Senate would meet virtually on Wednesday to discuss and decide on the modalities of students ’ resumption and academic activities.


He said , “ Irrespective of what the Federal Government has said , the resumption of students or of academic activities is the prerogative of Senate. Senate of the university will decide and the meeting of the Senate is coming up on Wednesday; a virtual meeting . The law places this in the hands of the Senate and until Senate meets , there is no way anybody can say anything on resumption. ”


The management of the University of Ibadan said everything would be done to ensure that there was not spike in cases of COVID - 19 among students and staff.


The Director of Public Communication of the university, Mr Olatunji Oladejo , said this in an interview with one of our correspondents in Ibadan on Sunday .

But ASUU Chairman at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University , Sokoto, Dr Abubakar Sabo, said he doubted if universities in Nigeria could meet the guidelines for preventing COVID -19.


Abubakar , who spoke to one of our correspondents in Sokoto , stated that he was not aware of measures being put in place by the management of the UDUD towards the resumption date .


“ The Federal Government and university authorities must ensure that, there is no spike on our campuses . I have doubt , if our universities can meet up with the standard and best practices to check the pandemic. ”


While reacting to this issue of social distancing on campus, chairman , , UNILAG branch, Dr Dele Ashiru , explained that the union had been justified over their agitations for expansion of infrastructure in Universities across the country .


He said , “ ASUU has been clamouring for the expansion of infrastructure in the universities.

This is a testimony to the justification of our struggles over the years because the situation as it is now leaves more to be desired. ”


The Ahmadu Bello University branch of ASUU said although its members were ready to work , it had not seen any measure put in place by the university.

ABU ’ s ASUU Chairman , Prof. Rabiu Nasiru , told one of our correspondents in Kaduna on Sunday that the lecturers were prepare to go back to work .


He , however , expressed concern that no adequate measures had so far been taken by the ABU management against the spread of the virus in the institution .


He said , “ I haven ’ t seen any measure taken so far by the management of ABU , but since the senate of the university is meeting on Tuesday, once Senate meets , I know those issues will be raised and it will be discussed. But for now , I have not seen any measure taken. ”


Really? ASUU took their share, parts of their demand were reached by the federal government yet they looking for insubstantial and decrepit excuses of exaggerated COVID-19.


Recall during the EndSARS protests on October 2020, major cities in Nigeria were  greeted by mammoth crowd of youths who protest against police brutality and and governance by past present leaders. The question to be asked is; why cases of COVID-19 didn't rise at the time of that protest that took about one month? It was reported that COVID-19 resurgence began in early December.


Amidst the new resurgence of Coronavirus, Nigeria government began the registration of National Identification Number((NIN) as usual, Nigerians trooped out of different centers thereby flouting COVID-19 protocols which involve social distancing.


I think that if the government of day is responsible enough, provision of safety materials and equipments against the spread of Coronavirus in public universities would been done earlier and urgently. The more the holidays of varsity students lingers, the more chances of already acquired knowledge going off.


It doesn't make any further sense to continue to shut varsities under the guise of COVID-19 phobia.


Well , the two parties, ASUU and the government that led to this absence of students in the universities for 9 months now have never prioritise education system in Nigeria. On the side of ASUU, if this type of incessant strikes happened during their days in campus, what could have emerged? Of course they wouldn't reach any great height they can think of. But who will tell you that. Coming to the government, everyone can predict that 90% of their children are studying oversees or in  private universities so why should they care to prioritise education system in public universities.


If Nigerian leaders and ASUU have regard for Nigerian students especially varsities students, they will see that not even Coronavirus pandemic is much bigger than the future of students.


Ibe Pascal Arogorn is a journalist and colonist


Twitter: @Ibepascal6

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