Should schools be reopened or not?
Now, I think beyond this debate, what are lineup of actions.
Of what essence are we clamouring for reopening of schools? To what end? What do we seek to achieve?
These are questions to be asked and answered objectively. Let's just have our round way to solving issues bearing in mind our constituents(students) as priority.
For instance, if we force the government to open school and ASUU to go back to classroom, there is a bigger problem. This is why we need to fight this to a logical conclusion once and for all. The reason government is not opening school yet is an evident of the demands of ASUU/COEASU/ASUP. If our laboratories are well equipped, if we have more than enough classrooms that are spacious enough, if we have good medical centers, if there is sustainable wastage and toilet systems, if there is enough computer systems in our ICT centers, if 300+ students wouldn't need to squeeze themselves into a class that normally should take maximum of 100, if we have a virtual class boards, all NCDC guidelines wouldn't be too difficult to meet today. And these are the demands lecturer Unions have been clamouring for, years before COVID-19. COVID-19 has only justified the demands of our lecturers.
So we must try to align our struggle and bridge the gap. If we clamour for reopening of school, what are the measures in place to make sure things move on fine? A state in the South West had opened it pry and secondary school. The governor of this same state had to go to Lagos treatment center to treat himself when he contracted the virus. Let's assume there are cases from these schools, would the children also have access to Lagos Isolation center and be treated with public fund just like the governor?
As leaders and stakeholders, we are faced with two options; one, choosing between the wants and two, need of the students. Their wants is that they want to go back to school for whatever reason it is and the need is for them to go back to school under a safe and healthy condition. So while their wants is emotionally driven, their need is rationally driven. Unfortunately, the emotion is gaining more popularity. The larger percentage of students do not understand what is at stake. We as the advanced layers should understand better and do the needful. We must not be pushed around by emotional outburst.
A lot of TASUEDites are clamouring for resumption. As the President, I must represent their interest and help them clamour for it as much as I can. But I must be objective. My clamouring of reopening of school must be with conditions.
One of the arguments raised by those saying school should open by all means is the video of the USA President wherein he was calling for reopening of school. But our people failed to consider the standard and reality obtainable in USA from our own. No Nigerian public school has an optimum toilet facilities, none has enough classrooms, the institutions with hall of residence has ten or more students in a room that ordinarily should be for two people, health centers couldn't even meet up with malaria treatments, there are no equipment in the laboratories etc. I have facts. I dont have to mention names. We have a federal institution, a first generational one for that matter whose Vice Chancellor said on National TV more than a month ago that it would start virtual class. Till date, the same University couldn't hold virtual University Senate meeting not to talk of virtual classes for it tens of thousand students.
Most if not all state owned institutions in Nigeria are funding staffs salary and other expenses on IGR. So they are all surviving on loans. Where would they get the fund to provide the necessary equipment needed to prevent COVID-19.
Some are bringing up the idea of dividing lectures into morning and afternoon sessions. Fine. But would we be employing more lecturers? Have we forgotten that one of the demands of ASUU is that more lecturers should be employed? This is because our institutions are understaffed and the lecturers are only trying to meet up. So now imagine a situation whereby we ask these lecturers to start teaching twice.
In fact, that we are in a situation like this is a justification for the failure of this system and a credence to ASUU demands. I've seen people criticised ASUU that the lecturers are not in the laboratories carrying out research for COVID-19 vaccine like their counterpart in foreign countries. I just laugh it off. Are their counterparts in foreign countries working under the kind of precarious conditions we have here?
Take a look at our secondary schools. When last did our WAEC students participated in practical exams in the sciences? Throughout my years in secondary school and till now, it didnt happen. What we do is alternative to practical. Look at our higher institutions. Our laboratories is filled up with equipments that were provided in 1970s,80s and 90s as the byproduct of Ali Must Go struggle or SAP struggle. What is left of our institutions are just buildings without institutions. Yet we want to produce vaccine.
So what's my point? Let's clamour for the reopening of school. But that must come with minimum required standard. Government must provide necessary measures. A resumption without such measure is suicidal. We must stop all these manage manage lifestyle. Let's get it done once and for all. The system is obviously not working.
The great Pedagogical Heroes of TASUED wants to go back to school just like every other students of other schools, I am obliged to represent this interest of theirs, but with clear objectivity.
This is my take.
Soneye Abdul-Azeez Lekan LAS
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