*Pupils of Township Model Primary School 1 washing their hands before entering classrooms.
•S/WEST: High alert, slow preventive steps
•S/EAST: Sensitisation, awful measures
•S/SOUTH: Schools claim awareness, no cautionary efforts
•NORTH: Growing sensitisation, no action
By Our Reporters
Following calls by the Federal Ministry of Health and other concerned authorities for urgent measures to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, investigations by Sunday Vanguard revealed that schools across the country are not giving the issue the deserved attention.
In virtually all the schools covered, findings showed some levels of awareness with little or no preventive measures against the dreaded virus.
This became necessary given last Friday’s index case of Coronavirus in Lagos and the growing spread of the disease to more countries, including African countries.
Though the condition of the 44-year-old Italian, who imported the disease into Nigeria, was stable at press time, Nigerians had since embraced prescribed preventive measures to avoid community spread.
Such steps as prescribed by the Ministry of Health include regular washing of hands, usage of sanitisers in homes, workplaces and other public places, staying three metres away from anyone coughing, avoiding non-essential visits to hospitals, and maintaining of personal hygiene among others.
However, at the schools Sunday Vanguard visited across the states, only a few adopted a small number of measures.
The majority claimed to be aware of the epidemic but was found not to have put precautionary measures in place.
In the South-South, apart from making students improve on their personal hygiene, some private schools asked parents to procure hand sanitizers for their wards.
In Bayelsa State, out of three public schools visited in Yenagoa, only one school, GovernmentTechnical and Science College, Okaka, took drastic preventive measures against coronavirus.
The principal of the school, Mr Okoya Okoi, told our reporter that youth corps members serving in the school have been holding routine sensitisation talks with students on preventive measures against Coronavirus and Lassa fever.
He added the hand sanitizers and buckets were made available by the corps members with the support from the school authority.
Some senior students said they are aware of the outbreak of the virus, adding that they now wash their hands before entering their classes daily and after break periods.
At St Jude GirlsSecondary School, Amarata, and Government Secondary School, Kpansia, all in the state capital, school administrators said though they were aware of the outbreak, they had not carried out any preventive measure.
They added as they were waiting for directives from the state Ministry of Education.
However, at Potter’sTouch High School, in the outskirts of Bayelsa State capital, the authorities had put in place, standard hygienic practice. Also, parents were asked to get hand sanitizers for their wards.
In most schools visited, there were no preventive measures in place against Convid-19.
The management of the institutions was not willing to respond to inquiries.
The awareness among pupils and teachers are from the media, particularly radio enlightenments.
In a chat with Sunday Vanguard, Precious Ogbonna, a student of Community Primary School, Rumuosi, Obio-Akpor Local Government Area, in Port Harcourt metropolis said: “Yes, they told us about Coronavirus during devotion. They said it is an illness that affects people and leads to death. We were asked to cut our nails, hair, clean our toilets, and wash our hands before eating. We were also told that when a classmate is sneezing or sick, we should tell our teacher.’’
Another pupil, Wisdom Onuoha said: “I have heard about Coronavirus. I heard on the radio and TV.”
A teacher in one of the schools, Mr Obito Silas, said: “We usually inform them about personal hygiene. We have told them to wash their hands regularly. We have water and soap for them and we have Sick Bay where we take sick people to.”
Another teacher, Pricilla Amadi, said: “We encourage the children to maintain good personal hygiene. We also advise them to stay away from anybody that is coughing. We tell anyone that is sick to remain at home.”
The Provost of Rivers State School of Health Technology, Port Harcourt, Prof Franklin Nlerum, ignored calls and text messages to his phone.
During a visit to some public schools including the popular West Itam Secondary School and Four TownsCommunity Commercial Secondary School, there were no measures in place.
Some staff of the schools, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they had not received directives from the appropriate authorities on the disease.
”When there wasEbola outbreak, we received directives from the Ministry of Health on what todo. For the Coronavirus, we have not been authorised to tell the students anything yet,” he said.
Sunday Vanguard learned that some schools had done sensitization against the spread of the virus.
Some students of Hussey College, Warri, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they are aware of the disease.
Also, the Principal of Patrick’s College, Asaba, Rev Father Ignatius Offor, told SundayVanguard said the school had put measures in place.
His words: “For us inSt Patrick’s College, we take hygiene very seriously. Before now, we take seriously the task of staying healthy. We have a slogan that a healthy man needs a healthy body and a healthy environment.
“The outbreak of the coronavirus did not send us panicking. What we did was to remind the children of the need to keep themselves and the environment clean.
“Recently, during the outbreak of Lassa fever, we had a series of seminars where we reminded the children of the need for handwashing exercise regularly. Two weeks ago we fumigated the school against Lassa fever.
“With the outbreak of coronavirus, we have also emphasised the need for handwashing. We also made efforts to keep water running on 24 hours basis. Among us here, we also limit contacts with people from outside. Even when people come in from outside, we try to limit contact with the students.”
None of the schools visited in Calabar, had commenced any move towards preventing any eventuality.
At the University of Calabar, which has a high number of foreign students, there was nothing like screening, handwashing or use sanitisers.
A highly placed official at the institution’s Medical Centre, was combative when asked what the school was doing to combat the disease in the event of an outbreak on campus.
“What do you want to do with what the school is doing to combat Coronavirus. Is anyone inflected in the school?’’ he queried.
When told there was no visible measure on campus or at the gate to screen those getting into the school, he retorted: “Go and write what you have seen.”
At the College of Health Technology, Head of the Medical Centre, Mrs Ekanem Andor, said nothing had been provided as measures to fight or prevent the scourge.
“We have nothing. All we are doing is to pray that the thing does not come here because if it does, everybody will go, that is the truth,’’ she added.
A visit to some schools in the state showed that the state government deployed some social mobilisation officers to sensitize the students and their teachers.
At AdegbolaMemorial Grammar School in Akure, washing hands with water and soap is a must for everyone.
Students were told to minimise contact and handshake for now.
It was a different case at Saint Louis Secondary School and Fiwasaye Girls GrammarSchool in Akure as precautionary measures had not been taken. In primary schools across the state, nothing seemed to have happened in that regard.
At Anwar-Islam Primary and Secondary Schools, Eleyele, Ibadan, people were seen moving in and out of the schools without anyone being given sanitisers to clean his hands.
A male teacher, who spoke with Sunday Vanguard, on condition of anonymity said even though, latest discoveries had proved that to be wrong, many people assume that Africans are immune to the virus.
However, at the entrance of some classrooms, there were bowls for pupils to wash their hands with soap.
At Oba Akinbiyi, Oremeji, one of the model schools built by the last administration, it was the same story.
At IDC Primary School, Aba Oni in Ido Local Government Area, pupils said they are aware of the disease.
Similarly, a pupil of Bodija International School, Peace Ajani, said: ”Our teachers cautioned us. They told us about the need to get hand sanitiser and also ensure we don’t move too near to sick people, especially those coughing.”
Sunday Vanguard observed that some public schools in Ekiti State have introduced measures to forestall coronavirus outbreak.
One of the teachers of Harding Memorial Anglican Nursery and Primary School, Ado-Ekiti, who spoke under anonymity, told Sunday Vanguard that they were urged by the Ministry of education to take precautionary actions.
At St. Stephen Anglican School, Ado-Ekiti, the Headmistress, who didn’t want her name in print, said precautionary measures were being put in place.
“We have wash hand basins, antiseptic liquid soap and hand sanitizers. The students are made to wash their hands as they come to school every morning and when they go out to play at break time. We also teach the students basic hygiene at the assembly every morning,” she added.
A visit to FakunleUnity High School, Osogbo revealed that not a single hand washing equipment was in the school.
Security officials at the entrance were not checking students’ temperature.
Students were also not enlightened on measures to take against contracting the disease.
A corps member in the school, Joy Aliyu, told Sunday Vanguard that health workers did not visit the school to enlighten either the students or teachers.
Similarly, at UnionBaptist Elementary School, Ola-Iya, there was no handwashing equipment. Attempt to speak with teachers proved abortive as the reporter was directed to theMinistry of Education for an official response.
At Adenle MiddleSchool, Osogbo, a teacher, who pleaded anonymity, said the students were not even bothered about the virus neither were the teachers much concerned.
According to the teacher, during the outbreak of Ebola, schools were given hand washing equipment, sanitisers, and body temperature readers, adding that no one seems to care now.
However, the special adviser to the Governor on Public Health, Dr Siji Olamiju, said the government has concluded plans to commence enlightenment in public primary and secondary schools across the state.
He added that his office would handle the campaign in primary and post-primary schools while the ministry of Education would liaise with the heads of post-secondary institutions in the state.
Schools in Abia State have embarked on an enlightenment campaign to sensitise their students on how to prevent an outbreak of Coronavirus.
A cross-section of school heads told Sunday Vanguard that basic information was given to their students.
The proprietor of Dozzy International Model School, Ntighauzo, Obingwa Council Area, Mr ChiedozieIsiguzoro, said necessary preventive kits and resources were provided for the school.
They include the first aid box, sanitizers, thermometer, pipe-borne water, face masks, soap, and towels.
“The students have also been warned not to share materials, but to strictly observe personal hygiene. Our Sick Bay is manned by a nurse. Students with symptoms of sickness we can’t handle are always taken to secondary health facilities.”
A headmaster in one of the public primary schools in Olokoro
Community, UmuahiaSouth Council, who pleaded anonymity, said students were being sensitised but lamented that they lacked basic equipment and facilities.
The story was not different in Enugu State as some schools visited in densely populated areas claimed to be aware of the disease and have put some precautionary measures in place.
At St. PatrickNursery, Primary and Secondary, Coal Camp,
Ogbette, Enugu, Principal of the institution, Mr Agbata Patrick, explained that clean water and soap were provided for the students
Also, he said that the management restricted students from going out of the school compound during break time.
He, however, appealed to the state government to come to the aid of schools by supplying necessary preventive materials such as thermometer and sanitizers.
At St. Peters Nursery and Primary School, Ogbete, Enugu, the
Head Mistress, Mrs.Ebene Ebere, said they have measures to save the children from contracting the virus, including the provision of clean water and soap for the students to wash their hands.
Imo State University, IMSU, the authority said its health department is prepared.
The institution’s Public Relations Officer, Ralph Njoku, said students were advised to adhere to hygienic practices.
He said: “Our public health department and medical centre are putting things together to ensure that once we detect the virus, we will move the person to the isolation centre which we are sure the state has already provided.’’
Our correspondent, who visited some schools in Lagos, discovered that some were putting measures in place to stay safe.
Almost all the schools covered had put in place, running water, soap and sanitisers.
At Binta International School, Ejigbo, the Principal, Mr Razak Ugwi, explained that after the Ebola outbreak in 2014, regular handwashing became a habit in the school.
He said the school had sensitised both the students and their parents about the disease and what was expected of them to do.
”We have educated the parents and made them understand that if any of their wards show symptoms associated with the disease, they should not come to school,” Ugwi explained.
Also, Proprietor of Tall Hope Schools, Isheri-Oshun, Lagos, Mr Aganga-Williams Charles, said their work was made easier because, teaching and maintaining personal hygiene like handwashing, not putting hands in mouth and nose were part of the school’s culture.
He said: “This is what we do every day. It is part of us here. The only difference now is we are stricter this time to ensure total compliance. We are doing all we can to keep ourselves and our environment safe,’’ he explained.
At Oke-Afa Junior Comprehensive College, Jakande Estate, Oke-Afa, the Principal, who pleaded anonymity, said the safety of students was of utmost importance.
“We know that no matter what, kids will always be kids. They pick up germs from anywhere and can get the basic flu from friends in school. We teach them how to wash their hands frequently and avoid close contact with people coughing and sneezing,’’ he said.
Many private and government-owned schools in Kano State are without preventive measures to contain the outbreak of Coronavirus.
Our correspondent, who visited some of the schools, gathered that many have no form of preventive measures on the ground.
A student of Government Senior Secondary School, Sabuwar Kofa, Muhammad Sadiq, said he is aware of the disease, saying that preventive measures were not put in place.
Abubakar Ismail of Kwalli Secondary School also said the same thing.
Similarly, Ibrahim Abdulmalik of Rumfa College said he was aware of the disease but added that his school was yet to take any preventive step.