Four months after the close of schools occasioned by the novel coronavirus, secondary schools in Nigeria on Tuesday, August 4, 2020, re-opened to allow the students in exit classes (SS3 and JSS3) to prepare ahead of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) billed for August 17, 2020. In line with the federal government’s pronouncement, Anambra State Government directed all the affected pupils and students in both day and boarding schools in the state to resume while observing strict personal hygiene protocols such as washing of hands regularly every 20 seconds, use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers, maintenance of physical distancing guidelines of 6feet between people, avoidance of hugs, kisses and handshakes as stipulated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), National Light reporters, NKIRUKA EZEDINUGWU, NKECHI IKENWOKE and BLESSING NNABUIFE visited some schools in Awka and Onitsha metropolis, to ascertain the level of compliance by these schools. They report:
AT DENNIS Memorial Grammar School (DMGS), Onitsha, on Thursday, it was observed that buckets with running taps, liquid soaps and sanitisers were stationed at the entrance of the school, corridors and other strategic positions in the school premises. A health official was also at the gate with an infra-red thermometer checking the temperature of everyone that is going inside the school premises. The students, teachers and other staff are seen wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing in their sitting arrangements.
Coincidentally, the staff of National Orientation Agency was on ground, sensitising the students and staff on the need to take the pandemic serious as the number of cases increase every day, laying emphasis on the best way to protect themselves and stay safe until this pandemic is over.
On whether the students are complying with the COVID-19 hygiene protocols, the principal of the school, Rev. Canon Chigozie Anieto said: “They should comply, if they fail to comply, we force them to comply. Of course, no one is joking with the issue of the pandemic. We are taking it seriously, that is why you can see all things put in place to help prevent the spread of the virus as directed by the WHO, NCDC and government. The students may not have understood the full implications, even though we keep on explaining to them, that is why I am happy with what the National Orientation Agency is doing now, trying to tell them to forget all those things they hear in motor-parks, markets and other local places, making them not to take these precautions serious, believing that the virus is not real. But with this sensitisation, they can now understand better that the virus is real and can affect anybody.
On how the school authority hope to get the children ready for the forthcoming examination in less than two weeks, he said “before they left, they were already prepared because schools closed exactly two weeks to the exam because of the pandemic.Now God in his infinite mercies gave them extra days to prepare for the exam, so they should be ready by now. But the truth is that some of them are not actually prepared because they had stayed at home long enough, so getting their minds back to track is a lot of work. This is why we started by giving them motivational talks because success starts with one having confidence. Confidence plus the little or much knowledge that one has should be able to bring the desired success”.
On how they are prepared to help any staff or student that tests positive, he said “God forbid that someone will test positive here, because if that happens, the government will close this facility. All we know is that we have done what the government said we should do, but peradventure, one shows signs of the virus, we have a quarantine facility in the school premises. We also have a functional sick bay different from the quarantine facility”.
On the turn out of the boarders, he said, “normally, this school is purely a boarding school, but because of the directive from the government which states that students whose parents live close-by should have the option of coming from home, so few of them are coming from home. But before they came back, their beds, refectory and other stuffs in the hostel were already arranged in line with the government directives. So, we are trying our best to keep everyone in this school as safe as possible.
At Eastern Academy Girls’ Secondary School, Onitsha, the Vice Principal, Admin, Mrs Okpala Florence, said, “you can see that we are taking the COVID-19 issue very serious. We have provided all the items needed for the COVID-19 hygiene protocol, from buckets with running water, liquid soaps, alcohol based sanitisers, infrared thermometers, white face masks, to functional sick bay. We also have done well in keeping the environment clean. This time around, we don’t hold our usual morning assembly, just to reduce the chances of the children mixing up. Instead, each class now holds assembly in the class with the teachers. Again, all the classes use to accommodate 50 students but now, it has been reduced to 20 students each, so that the social distancing guideline will be properly maintained.”
On whether they have provisions for first aid treatment, in case anyone falls sick, or shows symptoms of COVID-19, she said, “no, we are strictly warned not to administer any drug to any child because we may not know the health history of such child. So what we will do if we find ourselves in such situation is to take the child to the sick bay and make the necessary calls. We are just praying that God will help us to help these children and all the staff stay safe until the end of the examination.
In Igwebuike Grammar School, Awka, the COVID-19 task force team and school management adhered completely to the protocols by making provisions of the necessary materials like buckets with running taps, liquid soaps, facemasks, sanitisers, jik, hand gloves and knapsack for fumigation of the school premises.
The principal of the school, Arazu Jovita said that the team was set up to monitor the school, ensure social distancing in various classrooms, provide an isolation centre and take proper care of the school sick bay.
In a chat, the senior prefect of the school, Nnaemeka Victor in SS3A said that the lockdown made him to get more prepared, giving him an opportunity to increase the rate of preparedness, adding that he would have not made a better result if the exams came earlier before now.
In his word, “The lockdown has given us an opportunity and most of us have made use of that opportunity to study more. We are more prepared now and as well happy that finally, we are going to write our exams. We are not facing any difficulty ahead the exams and I pray that it will go smoothly. I also wish us all success and safetyduring the examination”.
As at the time of this report, the students were seen in their classes taking their revisions. One of the class teachers, Mrs Ngozi Nnaemeka, an SS3 Government teacher, advised the students to focus more in the revision to have more confidence as they prepare to write the exams.
The Vice Principal of Girl’s Secondary School, Awka, Mrs Esther Nsoromiwu along with other COVID-19 teams in the school were seen ensuring that the students comply with the COVID-19 protocols at the school gate, having their white facemasks and hand sanitisers with them for safety.
“Now you can see even with your eyes that the school is resuming today for the exit classes and we are doing the right thing according to the directives of the government. The students are complying because they were properly informed through their parents”, she said.
Adaeze Eze and Oluchukwu Nwufo in SS3B and SS3E, respectively, expressed their readiness for the examination, noting that they are not having any difficulty to face the examination but to refresh their memories. They asked God to give all the students a retentive memory to come out in flying colours.
In St. John of God Secondary School, Awka, It was also observed that about 200 students in classes ranging from SS3A to SS3F registered for the West African Senior Secondary Extermination Certification.
The manager of the school, Rev. Father Chigozie Jidere said that both the boarders and day students have resumed and have also started their revisions and more of them will still arrive.
He further said that necessary provisions have been made in the school to ensure complete compliance of both staff and students as regards the COVID-19 protocols, with more than 10 classes created to enable them keep the required social distancing among the students with more teachers to help in teaching the students in their various classes.
Lydia Aladi Ogale, who works as an assistant to the bursar, said that she and her team were checking in the students to find out those who complied to the government directives on COVID-19. “We first check their temperature and ensure that they have their hand sanitisers, facemasks.”
Mercy Enema in SS3B, said that she was registered for an extra moral lesson by her parents despite the online studies done by her school on ABS television station during the lockdown, noting that it helped her to have more confidence to face her exams. She encouraged the students to study well to pass out in flying colours and prayed that they will meet themselves in different universities.
Maryjane Uchenna advised the students to read hard and make their school, friends and families proud.
“I wish us success most especially nine As in all our examinations”, she said.
It was also observed in some private schools that the proprietors are more afraid to air their opinions in other to avoid any form of complicated speeches and difficulties from the government, noting that about 300 private schools were shutdown in the state earlier before the pandemic. Irrespective of the tension, the management and students were seen complying with the WHO, NCDC and government guidelines on the pandemic.
The school operators also pleaded with the government to assist them towards making more necessary materials needed for the compliance of these COVID-19 directives available.
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