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Low attendance, fee hike, lateness characterise school re-opening

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Pupils in the classroom

After six months of lockdown, academic activities resumed on Monday as schools opened across the country.

The majority of the schools have to cope with the extra cost of putting in place safety guidelines stipulated by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to prevent the COVID-19 spread.

Parents also have to shop for the money to pay fees while students have to deal with the unusual measure of social distancing, even with their friends in schools.

But stakeholders are worried that some parents may not be disposed to allowing their wards resume school, while others may not be able to afford the fees.

A parent, Mr. Victor Kayode said discussions on a platform with other parents and feedback from his children showed that about 50 per cent of pupils did not resume school.

Besides, he noted that some schools in Lagos are not fully ready for resumption as most of their teachers have resigned or migrated to other jobs to sustain themselves.

He said many schools located on rented premises now face the challenge of paying rent aside other expenses, while the situation has forced many to implement increment in school fees to enable them to meet their obligations which include paying teachers.

Other challenges schools have to contend with, according to him, include boosting the morale of teachers who were without pay for over five months.

He said the high cost of transportation, due to the increment in fuel price, also calls for concern.
“Most private schools have increased school fees across the board due to high cost of operations as a result of fuel price, electricity tariff, and other expenses on COVID-19 safety guidelines they need to put in place.
 
Mr Kayode appealed to the Federal Government to come to the aid of private school owners by giving them grants, as well as negotiate with transport unions on behalf of schools to reduce fare price for school children, and extending free instructional materials to private schools to help the indigent ones.

In the same vein, teachers who spoke to The Guardian said some parents were yet to fully adapt to back to school routine, as pupils were not punctual.

Administrator, Starcom International schools, Meiran, Lagos State, Mrs. Elesho Grace, said many of the children came late, apparently due to several months of lockdown.

“Some of the students were reluctant to come to school, having stayed at home for a very long period of time. A lot of the children are not comfortable using facemask while social distancing is strange to them.

Grace however said the students were happily washing their hands frequently, although it disrupts the free flow of study.

She lamented that about 30 per cent of the teachers in her school did not resume.

Principal, Effortswill Academy, Ejigbo, Lagos State, Mr. Abiodun Ayodeji Famakinde, said the school did not record 100 per cent of students’ attendance on the first day of resumption. 

According to him, students and parents adhered to COVID-19 protocols, submitting to temperature check, use of facemasks, hand washing, sanitiser applications, and others, which to a large extent showed that the people are well informed.

“A major difference between this phased re-opening, compared to previous resumptions at the beginning of a new session, is the fact that we have to plan an academic calendar that will accommodate within this 13-week term, outstandings of second and third of 2019/2020; as well as the first term of 2020/2021, particularly because we are not prepared to give automatic promotion to the students which are equally not good for the system.”

He said beyond the government’s guidelines on COVID-19 protocols, schools should observe all safety measures to avoid another lockdown that could arise from a spike in the pandemic. 

A student, Aderinsola Kukoyi, said things have changed from the way they used to be.

“I noticed that teachers are more careful. We have temperature checks by the gate and we have to wash and sanitise our hands at the entrance of the school. There are a lot of posters and arts on COVID-19. We all have to wear our facemasks and we also have to keep small sanitisers with us at all times.

“The one challenge we have is that we haven’t seen ourselves for a very long time and now, we can’t hug. Another major one is that we have to split into two to follow the COVID-19 protocols,” Kukoyi lamented.


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