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‘Continuous sensitisation necessary to avert fresh COVID-19 outbreak in schools’

By Iyabo Lawal, Yetunde Ayobami Ojo and Adelowo Adebumiti
26 November 2020   |   3:06 am
Amid growing concerns over a fresh outbreak of COVID-19 in schools, experts have canvassed a continuous sensitisation of parents on the dangers of coronavirus and why they must keep their wards safe


Amid growing concerns over a fresh outbreak of COVID-19 in schools, experts have canvassed a continuous sensitisation of parents on the dangers of coronavirus and why they must keep their wards safe to prevent a second wave of the pandemic.

Since schools were reopened, there have been cases of COVID-19 outbreak among students and members of staff across the country.

For instance, 181 pupils of a private school in the Lekki area of Lagos tested positive for the virus recently, while a similar thing occurred in another school on the mainland.

Similarly in Oyo, some students of a private tertiary institution and members of staff recorded cases of COVID-19 infection raising fears of a second wave of the pandemic.

To prevent another round of lockdown, especially in schools, and keep students safe from the pandemic, experts have stressed the need to continually educate and sensitise both parents and critical stakeholders.

An education consultant, Julius Opara said following the protocols in schools alone without the society and homes doing the same would amount to effort in futility.
“The students came from different homes and if the protocols are not followed there, they will certainly contract the virus and pass it on in school. What is important is to continually sensitise parents to practice the guidelines at home and to ensure they maintain a high level of hygiene.”

Opara urged schools and parents to invest in foods like meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds, noting that these foods possess nutrients shown to help immune system work most efficiently and effectively. 

“This can go a long way to naturally fight COVID-19. Students should be encouraged to eat a lot of vegetables at this time as it is a known fact that most students don’t enjoy eating vegetables and fruits hence schools and parents should encourage them to eat those things,” he said.

Managing Director, TEMBAM enterprise, Victor Kayode, said the first step is for parents to take responsibility by educating their children on the deadly coronavirus and the need to adhere to the safety measures at home, outdoor, and school.

“Secondly, government should set up a coronavirus task force to visit both public and private schools and monitor the level of compliance to the laid down guidelines against the deadly virus. Any school that fails to adhere to the guidelines should be sanctioned. This will make the school management pro-active as regards safety measures against the virus,” he said.
Kayode said the management of public and private schools should always read and practice the protocol guidelines at the assembly ground. 
Lead Consultant, Flourish-Gate Global Consult, Mrs. Dideolu Adegoke said the resurgence of COVID-19, especially in schools could be attributed to letting down the guard, regarding the protocols for schools, inadequate monitoring by key principal officers in schools, and also lack constant supervision from Quality Assurance Unit in the Ministry of Education.  

She said: “It is obvious that a lot of people generally do not believe that Covid-19 was ever in Nigeria and that led to the carefree attitude of the people. You need to be on the streets to see this, when people see you use the facemask, they look at you as a strange person. Like I mentioned earlier, the department of quality assurance in charge of monitoring has probably relaxed their activities or their officers are doing something else.” 

She suggested that maintaining the health guidelines in schools should be taken beyond the online re-registration of schools, taking the safety test, and obtaining certificates. “We are talking about the actual practice of the process, the implementation of the guidelines and enforcement. Some schools have forgotten social distancing in class arrangements, school buses, and socialisation in schools. The home is the worst. All guards have been let down. So, the quality assurance department should up her game in the enforcement of the guidelines.”  

Although Adegoke prayed Nigeria doesn’t experience the second wave of the pandemic, she expressed fear that “if nations with better health care systems are already experiencing the second phase of the pandemic, for us as a nation, if it happens, it may be drastic. We should do everything possible to make sure it doesn’t happen.” 

She, therefore, called on the government to still maintain its policy on border closure. Stressing, that our borders should still be partially locked down while we scrutinise all items and people entering. “International Airports should also be on partial lockdown, health institutions should be improved upon and a standard generalised procedural order should be enforced in public places and businesses.

In schools, for example, blended learning that allows pupils and students some days in school for physical learning and other days at home for online learning until we are out of the wood should be enforced. Parents should accept the reality of our time and know that online learning is part of the new order of schooling.” 

On school hygiene, Adegoke said, “I don’t think washing of hands and applying hand sanitisers for children is enough but its a step in the right direction because clean hands will not carry, abhor or transfer germs that cause different diseases including COVID-19. Most schools don’t even have regular sources of water to encourage frequent hand washing practice, especially public, low-cost, and some private schools.

The practice of hand washing and application of sanitisers are just one among many that should be embraced for healthy living and be free from diseases.” 

Speaking on why the pandemic has continued to spread in schools, Wahab Abdullahi, a legal practitioner said youths of school age are more vibrant and playful and may not be conscious of following the protocol to the letter.

‘‘So, the children would not remember to wash their hands, use sanitisers and others, the result can be seen in what is happening. Warning on the dangers if the pandemic should spread among minors.”

The Proprietress of Tokas Children School, Lagos, Mrs. Grace Adesuyi said it is imperative for schools to maintain the mandatory protocols and necessary guidelines that the government has put in place.

“Though the pandemic is in phases and children are more vulnerable because they cannot adhere to social distancing as adults do, we had to do the floor markings; measure the lockers for social distancing; provide facemasks and ensure that they all use it when coming to school.” 

She added that Nigerians needed to do away with sentiments, superstition, and carefree attitude, to help stop the spread of the pandemic.  

Mr. Adeola Ogundipe said one of the factors that may trigger the second wave of the pandemic is that those involved in molding the pupils are not playing their part in line with NCDC guidelines. 

“How many parents are providing their children with basic needs like hand sanitisers, face shield, and hand washing soap? People should play their part by giving pupils health tips that would keep them safe from the pandemic.

On her part, Mrs. Caroline Iwuchukwu said the resurgence of coronavirus in schools could be largely due to non-compliance with government directives on the need to apply all necessary measures.

‘‘It is not that the government has withdrawn or relaxed the directives on compliance; government, therefore, needs to be more proactive to curb the spread of the pandemic. Washing of hands and applying sanitisers alone cannot be enough. COVID-19 test should be made compulsory for all Nigerians.” 

MEANWHILE, the Lagos State government is set to begin inspection for safe reopening. Already, the Office of Education Quality Assurance (OEQA) had organised a training programme for its senior evaluators on school inspection and evaluation, school reopening plan review, and scoring guide to ensure public and private schools stay safely reopened amid the pandemic.

Director-General of the agency, Mrs. Abiola Seriki-Ayeni said evaluators are mandated to ensure that schools continuously sensitise students, teachers, and parents on the need to constantly and diligently observe the government’s safety protocols during school hours and at all times. She said evaluators are expected to observe clear evidence of reopening guidelines in and around the premises.

Chief Executive Officer, W-Holistic Solutions, Mrs. Olanrewaju Oniyitan while speaking to the evaluators, disclosed the evaluation metrics of scoring schools, guiding them on what to look out for in-school plans during the visit before final clearance to reopen is issued.

Oniyitan said this would help identify if a school is safe to reopen, needs more work, or needs a total rework using the submitted school plan.

She advised that schools must continue to adhere strictly to all safety protocol measures, saying that COVID-19 is still at the community transmission stage and all hands must be on deck to ensure Lagos State and the country at large do not experience a spike.

On her part, Mrs. Okeyinfu Ajayi emphasised the need for schools to clearly state their operational plans, health and safety, academic and learning as well as data and communication plans as the reopening, which is in line with the Federal and Lagos State Government safety measures for schools.

She also added that it is a must for schools to make provision for virtual or remote learning, in case there is a need for a school to shut down due to infection, so as to make sure learning continues. She emphasised that no student should be left behind in the quest to achieve qualitative education.

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