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In Anambra, pupils happily return to school

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Following the resumption of schools in Anambra State this week for the completion of the third term academic activities for 2019/2020 session, National Light reporters, NKIRUKA EZEDINUGWU and CHARITY UZOAGBA visited some primary and secondary schools in the state to observe the turnout of pupils and teachers and their compliance with the COVID-19 hygiene protocols. They report:

AT THE early hours of Monday, September 14, 2020, most students were sighted as they dangled their school bags behind their backs to school after six months of compulsory holidays as a result of the pandemic.

  Our correspondents who visited some schools within Awka Metropolis observed that as at 7:00am, students, teachers, guardians and visitors were made to wash their hands and use hand sanitisers situated at the entrance point, with their body temperatures checked using infrared devices, whereas those who were not putting on their face masks were not allowed to enter the school gates.

  It was equally observed that morning assembly sessions were  not holding in all the schools visited as one of the measures to discourage the spread of COVID-19 while a lot of pupils were putting on coloured face masks instead of the white face masks approved for them.

  Principal of Igwebuike Grammar School, Awka, Jovita Arazu, who was seen around 7:00am, at the school gate supervising activities and ensuring the COVID-19 Task Force team in the school were doing their work effectively.

  Arazu said that the school was fully prepared to continue its academic classes, noting that the school has been complying with the online teaching throughout the lockdown where teachers in various classes have been covering their academic schemes of work. “Now that they are back, they will do a little bit of revisions and commence the examination. I am sure that they will do well and we will wrap up the third term and begin the next academic session”.

  He said that the turnout of students to school was quite impressive as most of them were seen in the classes, ready and eager to start learning.

  One of the students, Harleyday Chukwu, expressed his delight on the news of school resumption after several months of compulsory holidays and expressed his eagerness to put in his best in his studies.

  On how schools are coping with the resumption of students, the Principal, Community Secondary School, Ebenebe, Mrs Chikeluba Bibian, said, “the school just resumed for all classes today, but the school had been open since August 4, when the SS3 students resumed, and last week, the JSS3 students resumed.

So, because we had been coming to school for more than one month now, these last batch of students that are returning do not have much work to do, because already, before today, the school compound had been tidied up; their lockers had been set in accordance with the required space. Their original classrooms plus the emergency classrooms were already cleaned and disinfected. Now, they are in their different classes observing the mandatory resumption exercise.

  On their preparedness to help the students adhere to the COVID-19 protocols, she said, “we have our buckets with running taps, sanitisers, liquid soap, the infrared thermometer for checking temperatures are all on ground. We are now mounting them in strategic places, including their classes. For the face mask, an old boy of the school made white face masks according to the number of the students.

 So, we have shared to the students that have resumed and for the ones that are yet to resume, their own are still here. Even during their break time, we are told not to allow all of them go on break at the same time. So, it will be batch by batch and the time for each batch will be shorter than the normal break time.

  “Then, we have eight-man COVID-19 Task Force Committee in this school and they are in charge of ensuring that all the COVID-19 protocols are strictly observed in this school and then, we are told that from time to time, the Anambra State COVID-19 Task Force Team will be bumping in to check our compliance level. So with that, we will not relax our efforts in ensuring that we are complying with all the hygiene protocols”.

  On the turnout of students, she said, “their turn out is encouraging, even though I know that some of them may not return for so many reasons, but in all, 60% of them have returned and we are still expecting more. I know that most of them are tired of staying at home and are eager for schools to resume”.

  In a similar visit to St. John of God Secondary School, Awka, a Business Studies teacher, Mrs Doris Ekwunife, who spoke shortly after addressing students in a class, disclosed that the school didn’t hold their normal morning assembly as it was part of the measures to protect the students from any possible way of contracting the virus.

She also revealed that the students are getting prepared to take their resumption exercise. The students, teachers and visitors were mandated to put on their face masks before entrance through the school gate and their temperatures were duly checked using the infrared thermometer.

  In Agueke Primary School, Ugbenu, Awka North Local Government Area, the headmistress, Mrs ThankGod Udeze said, “my pupils turned up for classes even more than I expected. Before I even came, they have arranged themselves on our assembly ground, waiting for me to come. But I told them that henceforth, there will be no more morning assembly because of the pandemic.

Their turnout is really encouraging; especially for primary 1-3, probably because of this free lunch that the federal government is giving them every school day. Some of them did not even come to school, but when it was time for that lunch, they started coming, just to eat the food.

 For the face mask, I engaged a local tailor and she made good and quality white face masks for the children so that everyone of them will have it. Then, we have our buckets and other COVID-19 hygiene items and we have started making use of them.

  “The major challenge of this resumption will come from parents who have both primary and nursery kids. You know that the children in nursery schools did not resume with others. As you can see, our nursery section is locked up.

Around here, most parents do not go to churches, most of them do not have radio sets, so they do not know that their children in nursery schools will not resume with those of them in the primary schools. So what they did was to tell all of them to come to school in the morning, and when I came, I instructed them to take their little ones home.

I was still trying to settle in when most of the parents started trooping in, saying that if we will not accommodate these little children that the elder ones in the primary section will also have to stop coming to school because they don’t have anyone to take care of those children. So, we are pleading with the government to urgently do something about these children so that they will be coming to school with others”.

  At Rev.Fr Aaron Ekwu Memorial Primary and Secondary School, Amawbia, school children were seen walking into their various classes after being guided to observe the hygiene protocols by the school’s COVID-19 Taskforce Team which included the use of the washing hand basins and soap in front of their classrooms and also enlightened them on the safety measures using the a COVID-19 illustrations on a banner.

  The Principal, Mrs. Eugenia Oguejiofor said that the school had already put in place all the necessary items needed for strict adherance to the COVID-19 protocols for school reopening as directed by the state government.

  On how they hope to get the students ready for the general exams within one month, Mrs Gloria Ikwumelueze, the Vice Principal, Holy Spirit Secondary School, Ebenebe, said, “you know that this is a village school and as such, most of them did not benefit from the online learning and the ‘on-air’ teaching trended throughout the lockdown, but we will do our best to help them. Aside the normal classroom teachings, we will add extra-mural classes, but that is after the PTA meeting that will hold on Thursday, this week, but we will try our best to cover the scheme of work ”.

  As part of preparation for reopening of schools, a teacher at Aquinas Model Nursery and Primary School, Mrs. Angela Ezelibe disclosed that teachers, including the cleaners had tidied the school and its environs last Friday. She also noted that 60 per cent of the pupils were already in school, adding that they are strictly observing the state government’s laid down guidelines for reopening of schools, having their running water at the strategic places, observing the social distancing, creating awareness of the precautionary measures.

  At Central Primary School, Ebenebe, Awka North Local Government Area, Mrs Georgina Ijeoma Uwanelo, the headmistress said, “the turnout of the pupils are encouraging because they have stayed at home for a very long time and they, alongside their parents are eager to return to school. For the face masks, I provided white face masks for all my pupils, both the ones that have resumed and the ones that are yet to resume. We have other items like buckets, soaps, sanitisers and infrarred thermometer that are required for the COVID-19 hygiene protocols.

  On how they hope to get the children ready for the exams that is set to start in less than one month, she said, “we hope to add extra-mural lessons, but that will be after our PTA meeting that is scheduled to hold on Friday this week.

  On reaching to Community Secondary School, Awba-Ofemmili, the students were in their classes having their resumption exercise. The principal, Mrs Ebele Anyadiufu said, “I was newly posted to this school,(barely two weeks), but I have observed that getting these students to observe the COVID-19 protocols will be quite difficult because they hardly adhere to any instruction. But I am liaising with my teachers who had been here longer than myself to see how best to make them comply”.

  At Comprehensive Secondary School, Ugbene, Awka North Local Government Area, the principal, Mr Boniface Nnaegbuna said, “the number of students that resumed is encouraging. But sadly, some of the students may not come back because some of them have gone to learn different trades and crafts. Some of them are now keke and okada riders, and I know that because they are making money for themselves and their families, they may not come back to school. The one that hurts me most is that I saw one of my brightest students at Onitsha Head Bridge already an apprentice in one of the drug stores there.

When I spoke to him about returning to school, he said, ‘I cannot go back to school because my parents and siblings are hoping on me to get acquainted with the drug business, get settled and start up my own business as to earn a living, so I cannot disappoint them.’ So, you can see why I said that the majority of them may not return to school”.

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