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Mixed reactions trail FG’s plan to reopen schools

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CHAIRMAN of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, earlier this week announced the reopening of schools for students in graduating classes: Primary 6, JSS3 and SS3 for them to write their final exams. He also added that schools and daycare centers across the nation would remain closed until further evaluation.

  “For educational activities, all daycares and primary schools are to remain closed until further evaluation, schools are encouraged to continue with E- learning and visual teaching, but pupils who have final exams would resume, like the Primary 6 to take their common entrance provided there’s compliance with issued non-pharmaceutical intervention; other classes are to remain closed including tertiary institutions.”

  Based on this, many parents are in a dilemma at the moment on whether to allow their children go back to school or stay still at home to avoid them contracting the dreaded virus which was the reason schools were shut down.

  The General Secretary of Nigeria Union of Teachers, Mike Ene frowns at the movement of the federal government to reopen schools, insisting that the time isn’t ripe yet.

  “Currently, we are experiencing significant rise in the number of confirmed cases because we are in community transmission phase. In addition, the government has not provided what is required for safe reopening of schools, especially in rural areas.” He said.

  “Federal, state and local government are shifting responsibilities, with some insisting that education is on the concurrent list, therefore, they won’t take certain steps. Mind you, these school children are coming from homes or locations where there are positive cases; chances are high that such children would infect other children with the COVID-19 as was the case in Isreal recently.”

  “However, the position of the NUT is that we are not ready for safe school reopening because the necessary things are not done yet by government at all levels. Also we won’t like to expose our members, teachers to some unnecessary health dangers,” he said .

  Findings also shows that one of the major fears of parents concerning the reopening of schools is the inability of schools to abide by the protocols stipulated by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) which includes that any state wishing to reopen schools hold adequate consultations with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and the parents.

  Each school is required to create temporary isolation space and fully equipped clinics before reopening.

  They are to establish a referral system, including protocols and procedures to take if learners, teachers, administrators and other education personnel become unwell while in school.

  School proprietors are to construct additional structures and employ more teachers to ensure that they accommodate their pupils by adhering to the two-metre spacing system in classrooms.

  School proprietors are to seek grants to procure soap and buckets, ensure regular safe water supply, ensure constant supply of learning and instructional materials and pay salaries on time.

  Most importantly, parents fear the ability of pupils to restrain themselves from mingling dangerously with one another.

  But Ben Ayade, Governor of Cross River State, believes that Nigeria could be waiting for eternity, advising that schools should reopen as the coronavirus may have come to stay. He said that what was needed to be done was to fashion out ways of living with the pandemic.

  Some parents however have mixed reactions on the reopening of schools for students in graduating classes.

  “I understand the need for people in SS3 and final year to write exams but the rest, I don’t know what the rush is. Considering that there is active community transfusion and it’s all man for himself. There is another wave of virus said to hit the world already looming from China. As it is, we have not seen the worst of this pandemic,” Mrs Nnenne Ekechukwu said.

  For Mrs Chiwendu Ugo-Eze: “It has its good sides. School calendar may recover after the long break; at least top classes would graduate. They said the cases will tend to increase if precautionary measures aren’t implemented.”

  Mr Samuel Nwosu has this to say,“there’s a lot of things involved. It’s good the federal government saw it fit for these top classes to resume school and write their exams. First of all, we Nigerians aren’t prepared for the online classes because people are still complaining of not really understanding what the teacher is talking about and secondly, not everyone can handle the dynamics of online classes. As humans, we are meant for socialisation, so not seeing someone to talk to during learning is a problem. We also need to know that safety precautions are meant to be adhered to.”

  “Looking at over 15, 000 active cases and also over 500 new cases daily, reopening of schools now is a bad decision. They’ll be exposing the students to danger. In fact, it’s a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. COVID-19 is all over the country presently. So in my opinion, I think schools should remain closed until they’re able to control the pandemic.” a respondent who’d rather remain anonymous claims.

  “I think it’s okay but what happens after that? And does it mean they’ll be in the same class with their immediate seniors? If yes, that wouldn’t be fair to their seniors but I’m sure no one is thinking about that right now. Even if schools provide all the necessary things expected of them, enforcing compliance may be a little bit difficult. The major concern I have, which I think is the same fear of many parents is how to get the children to observe and maintain a social distance, wash their hands regularly and also comply with the rules of not touching their faces, noses and mouths.”

  She further added, “I read a report a few days ago that despite all the warnings and instructions on the protocol to adopt by worshippers, some of the people were so excited on seeing their brethren that they began to hug one another and shaking hands. If it is so with adults, I cannot be sure that the children will be controlled if they should be told to go back to school today. The coronavirus is real; make no mistake about it. So, what would it profit a parent to endanger the life of a child or by implication, a whole family by clamoring for school reopening? I think, for me, life is first.”

  It’s a great plan and it could be safe too because everyone in a particular class can be divided and put in different class rooms as per social distancing and the smaller they are, the more control they’ll have in trying to curb the spread of the virus and teaching the students at the same time,” Precious Omoke said.

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