By Adesina Wahab
Critical stakeholders in the education sector have called on the government to lead by example by providing all the facilities required for a safe reopening of schools during this COVID-19 pandemic in those schools it owns.
The stakeholders, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, the Nigeria Union. of Teachers. NUT, the National Parent Teacher Association of Nigeria, NAPTAN, and the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools, NAPPS, stated this in chats with Vanguard on Thursday.
While describing the conditions listed by the government as good, they, however, faulted it, saying most of the conditions cannot be met in government-owned schools.
The Federal Government had on Tuesday sent a document titled “Guidelines for schools and learning facilities reopening after COVID-19 pandemic closure” to the National Assembly.
Among the conditions listed by the Federal Government for the reopening of schools are that each school should have temporary isolation space and fully-equipped clinic.
Other conditions include the provision of more classrooms and employment of more teachers so that students can sit at least two meters apart, provision of water, soap, sanitisers, Infrared thermometers, and referral system including protocols to take if anybody becomes unwell in school.
Commenting on the issue, the National President of ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, said the government should stop dancing around issues.
“When we met them two weeks ago, the six conditions they listed were different from these. Between then and now, what has changed? Who should be responsible for the provision of these facilities they are talking about, is it not the government? The government is not taking responsibility. What they ought to say is that we are making these things available before schools will reopen.
“We should address the fundamentals and stop dancing around issues. The government should show the way by making all these available in public schools. It is not just a matter of you prescribing something, you too should take the medication you are prescribing for others. That is why we are calling on the government to adequately fund the education sector,” he said.
The Lagos State Chairman of the NUT, Otunba Adesina Adedoyin, advised that the government should come up with something realisable.
“We presently have public schools that are overcrowded and where the teacher-student ratio is poor and where even furniture is not adequate. Will, it was not a white elephant project if they want to start building clinics in public schools now? What can be done is to make test centres accessible and close to schools.
“Students, teachers, and others in the school system should wear face masks, wash hands regularly, use Infrared thermometers to check body temperatures among others, but, saying each school would wait until a clinic is built is not feasible. To reduce overcrowding in schools, my take is that students in overpopulated schools should be spread to schools with a low population.
“Also, if we want to wait until more classrooms are built, we may wait forever. We are reaping the negligence of the education sector for years. Let them fumigate all schools and do so regularly and we can start from somewhere. I am also not in support of the shift system in schools. It may not work because of some social and infrastructural factors, ” he opined.
The National President of NAPTAN, Haruna Danjuma, said it is the responsibility of the government to provide facilities in schools.
“The issue of the the clinic can be easily sorted out in government boarding schools, but how many public schools have boarding facilities? I will advise the government to give a timeline for the reopening of schools. As parents, we are ready to support the government as we did during the Ebola outbreak. To solve this problem, we need to consider short, medium, and long term solutions.
“One of the short term solutions is for students in final year classes to resume and sit for their final examinations. We can then divide other classes to operate a shift system. It may be from 8am to 11am, 11am to 2pm and 2pm to 5pm schooling. We may also say some should go to school on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and another set on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. That will be better than our children sitting at home doing nothing,” Danjuma noted.
On his part, the Lagos State President of NAPPS, Chief Olawale Amusa, stated that the conditions would not be difficult for his members to meet.
“All government approved private schools have facilities to meet those conditions. We have what we call sickbay and restrooms in our schools. Most private schools are not overcrowded, we have maximum of 20 students per class. The only area of challenge is that we may have to suspend morning assembly for a while.
“However, most public schools don’t have these facilities. While the government is building more classrooms, they can try the shift system for students to continue their studies,” he said.
Recall that the Minister of State for Education Mr Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, at the policy meeting of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, held online in Abuja last week, listed some conditions for schools to reopen in the country, but the conditions he listed then were different from those contained in the document submitted to the National Assembly early this week.