Owing to the pressure by our lawmakers on the President to reorder the reopening of schools, it seems necessary to observe the results experienced in countries who went ahead to reopen their schools, such as Ghana.
Recently, the President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, asked the graduating Senior Secondary students to resume on the 22nd of June, as part of the country's plans to ease its lockdown. The result of this was that 55 out of 314 of the staff and students of the Accra Girls Senior High School schools ended up testing positive for the coronavirus. There were also reports of Covid-19 cases in other Senior High schools in the country, but the Accra Girls Senior High School recorded the most cases.The Government of Ghana made this known in a statement signed by Kwasi Opoku-Amankwa, the Director-General of Ghana Education Service, and Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service.
Meanwhile, six South-West states agreed on Wednesday the 14th of July to reopen their schools for pupils to sit for the 2020 WAEC, following the virtual meeting they had on Tuesday that was initiated by the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria. This is against the Federal Government's stand on not reopening schools for the JSS 3 and SS3 exams. The states are Ondo, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Ogun and Lagos.
These States also recommended that schools put in place incident managers and classroom wardens for every school and classrooms in schools. While this may be possible for large schools with many staff, it may not be possible for newly established private schools. This is because it will require that such schools employ more staff or stretch the limits of those currently on their payroll. We all know that Private Schools generally overburden their staff. Meanwhile, many private schools are still owing or struggling to pay their staff's salaries, owing to the fact that they have less students paying school fees and contributing to their school's pocket.
Also, the South-West states recommended that the Quality Assurance Department for each state issues a Safety Compliance Certificate to schools before their reopening. This is not a good idea because it will eventually lead to corrupt officials cutting corners and collecting bribe from schools Proprietors, ultimately defeating the purpose of safeguarding the health of our students. We all know how corrupt Nigerians in authority can be, we should be more concerned about the welfare of our students and not consider any alternative that might have even the slightest chance of endangering the lives of our students.
Taking note of the result of the premature reopening of schools in Ghana and noting the similar results experienced by other nations like Israel that saw a spike in the number of its confirmed coronavirus cases after reopening it's schools, it is reasonable to postpone schools resumption, most especially as we do not have the required infrastructure and capacity to handle a major outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in our country, should things not go as expected. Even if schools put in place measures to ensure their pupils' safety, we all know that people can be asymptomatic and not show any sign of being infected till they are far gone and would have infected others. This will portend great danger for other students and staff, as well as tarnish the image of such school. We cannot put a price value on the health of our children, and we should remember that all it takes is just one infected person to infect many others. Children we know do not like to be restricted, so their infection may come from touching surfaces contaminated by infected students.
Meanwhile the guidelines provided by the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu and the Minister of State (Education), Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba for the safe reopening of schools stated that pupils should be aided to maintain social distancing and stay at least 2 metres apart, that may be possible within schools' premises, but what happens at the close of schools, when such pupils cluster together to enter transport or stroll back home together, who follows them beyond the confines of the school environment to keep enforcing the two metres apart rule?
As for the frequent clean up of surfaces hygiene and the school premises, we all know that even the cleaners are human beings and not machines. Many schools will most likely not employ extra labour to meet up with the incessant demand for cleaning up possibly contaminated surfaces, so there are bound to be slips in their diligence in executing the regular cleanup of surfaces. We can only hope that the pupils do not suffer for this or pay the price by contracting the virus.
As we know, the coronavirus is a novel virus that is still undergoing study. As such, even the recent confirmation by the Director General of the NCDC of the possibility of its being airborne should be another source of worry for any parent.
It is certainly not possible for schools to teach all their students in open spaces, so the children will have to be confined in closed spaces at their own risk. Given that the coronavirus may be with us for a while, we have not made much progress in understanding the virus in it's totality, so it is better for us to lose a school year than be faced with high mortality, because children are the future of the country.
In conclusion, let us not be hasty to ask our students to resume. The covid-19 statistics published daily by the NCDC shows us that the number of those affected by the virus is increasing at a phenomenal rate.
Until we find a way to flatten the curve, reopening our schools will be foolhardy. What we should be focused on as a country is controlling the transmission rate of the virus. For now, let us collaborate with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, by
- Wearing a face mask
- Observing physical distance
- Washing our hands frequently with soap and water.
We can turn the situation around if we work together. Therefore, all states governments and Nigerians should work hand in hand to protect the health of all Nigerians.
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