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NUT, PTF express fear as schools reopen today

By Iyabo Lawal, Sunday Aikulola, and Olumide Ologboosere (Lagos), Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze and Kanyo Umeh (Abuja), Odun Edward (Ilorin), Rauf Oyewole (Bauchi) and Osiberoha Osibe (Awka)
04 August 2020   |   3:40 am
Nigeria Union of Teachers and Presidential Task force on COVID-19 yesterday expressed anxiety as schools across the country reopen today.

Back to school at Mafoluku Grammar School in Lagos…yesterday. PHOTO: FEMI ADEBESIN-KUTI<br />

Teachers vow to withdraw services if not protected
• Schools, parents, students excited, ready for resumption

Nigeria Union of Teachers and Presidential Task force on COVID-19 yesterday expressed anxiety as schools across the country reopen today.

The reopening comes after four months of closure following the COVID-19 pandemic. Only students in exit classes are, however, allowed to resume to prepare for their terminal examinations.

The teachers said they were afraid measures put in place by federal and state governments were not enough to keep staff and children safe.

While the National President of Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Dr. Nasir Idris, expressed teachers’ worry in an interview with The Guardian yesterday in Abuja,

Chairman of PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, conveyed the task force’s uneasiness during its daily briefing in Abuja.

The NUT president warned that the union would withdraw its services if government failed to put in place measures in compliance with the recommendations of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

“If the government refuses to put COVID-19 protocols in place, we will have no other option but to meet with our members and withdraw our services because the pandemic is increasing day by day. We will take stock state by state and ensure that in any place they have not provided the COVID-19 protocols, we will withdraw our service

“The NUT was not in support of reopening of schools at the initial stage, because majority of Nigerians were not complying with the guidelines by NCDC, the Federal Ministry of Health and the Presidential Task Force.”

The NUT chairman said the union was also concerned about students spreading the virus at school.

“Primary and secondary school students are very young people; they will be more vulnerable. Besides, by the time they see their classmates after these four months, some of them will forget about the issue of washing of hands, using hand sanitisers and face masks. They will continue to hug themselves and, at the end of the day, many will be infected.”

“If the Federal Government said it would provide the needful, it also needs to compel state governments to provide the needful. They should ensure COVID-19 protocols are provided in both urban and rural areas.

‘We urge Federal Government not to only provide the needful for unity schools because the bulk of the population of students are in states and local governments. About 95 percent of schools are in states.”

Boss Mustapha said reopening of the education sector was a source of concern, based on the fact that the school system remained a fertile ground for community transmission, if appropriate protocols were not put in place.

Meanwhile, The Guardian visited some schools in city centres, especially in Lagos, and observed that preparation was made for today’s resumption. At Birch Freeman High School, Surulere, the alma mater of former Lagos State governor, Babatude Fashola, a banner was seen on the school gate with the inscription: ‘COVID-19 prevention: No face mask, no entry. Ten taps were provided,five each for junior and senior school.

At the Ransome Kuti Memorial Senior Grammar School, Jibowu, there was a banner at the gate explaining safety protocols against COVID-19. Taps were positioned in strategic places on the premises. The Eko Boys Junior High School, Mushin had the gardener clearing overgrown weeds. Asked about provision made by management to prevent spread of the pandemic, he said tap water and soap had already been provided but that the place was still under lock and key. Also at the Gbolahan Preparatory and High School in Ajao Estate, two wash hand basins were positioned at the entrance with infrared thermometers, hand sanitisers, soaps, hand gloves and nose masks.

Lagos State Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo, yesterday led a monitoring team to some schools to assess the situation.

Adefisayo, while at education district IV around Yaba, Surulere and Apapa axis, expressed satisfaction with the level of preparedness of schools, stressing that the state government was very concerned about safety of students and their teachers.

The commissioner noted that the inspection would continue till all schools were covered and warned that any school accommodating other students apart from SS3 and TEC3, contrary to state government’s directive, would face disciplinary action.

Adefisayo enjoined teachers to take care of themselves and enforce COVID-19 protocols.

On the readiness of unity schools, the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, announced yesterday that 104 unity colleges across the country were ready for resumption.
The minister made the announcement at a meeting with commissioners of education of the 36 states via a Zoom platform. He lauded principals of unity colleges for measures put in place.

He said he would visit unity colleges to confirm reports from principals, urging that Federal Education Quality Assurance Directors to monitor compliance in their respective states.

In Bauchi, The Guardian observed school owners holding meetings with parents and teachers. In one of such meetings, the proprietor of Dolphin Maria College, Al-Hassan Mohammed, urged parents to allow their wards to stay in hostels for “elongated study.”

He said, “Some of these students have been left doing nothing for months. We want to do this to dissociate them from distraction of social media and other-time consuming events. Our aim is to see them pass this exam.”
One of the parents, Prof. Aliyu Ibrahim, said the online class was a wasted effort, noting that many of the students couldn’t access the services due to financial constraints.

“I think I’m sending my son to a boarding school where he would read for the period of the exam.”

A student, Baraka Usman said she had been studying in an effort to pass.

“I still need more revisions from my teachers” she said.

MEANWHILE, Bauchi State Ministry of Education has issued a communiqué on guidelines for school resumption. It stated: “All students must come to school with at least one washable face mask. All schools must make provision for at least one gate (monitored by teacher who must be stationed permanently at the gate.”
He harped on the need for social distancing and functional clinic in schools.”

IN Kwara State, government yesterday gave out 65,000 facemasks for distribution across schools. The masks were distributed to exit class students as part government’s efforts to flatten the curve of COVID-19 transmission.

“On behalf of the Kwara State Government and His Excellency AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, I present these face masks to the Honourable Commissioner for Education and Human Capital Development, Hajia Bisola Ahmed, for onward distribution to our SS3 students as they prepare to resume academic activities.

“This is just the beginning as they will get more and more of our support,” Kayode Alabi, Deputy Governor and Chairman of the Kwara State Technical Committee on COVID-19, told reporters in Ilorin, the state capital.

CHAIRMAN of the Anambra State Universal Basic Education Board (ASUBEB), Patrick Ugboaja, said that, in line with the Federal Government’s directive, the Agency had provided buckets of water for hand-washing, sanitisers, among others.

KADUNA State Government has, however, directed that no studies would commence until Monday, August 10.
A statement by the state’s Commissioner for Education, Dr. Shehu Muhammad informed that the Kaduna State Ministry of Education directed all principals to make arrangements to receive SS3 boarding students on August 9; and day students, on 10th August.