The Academic Staff Union of Universities has advised the Federal Government against reopening schools amid the Coronavirus pandemic.
According to ASUU, they are in full support of the Federal Government’s decision to stop Senior Secondary School 3 pupils from partaking in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination earlier scheduled to commence on August 4.
The union advised the government to shut down schools until 2021 to ensure adequate preparations, citing the case in some countries such as Kenya.
The Federal Ministry of Education met with officials of the West African Examination Council in Abuja and resolved to announce a new date for the examination.
The Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, had also said the government would consult with the four other countries under WAEC to set a new date, while announcing COVID-19 mandatory guidelines for schools which must be kept before July 29.
The ASUU President, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, who made the recommendations in an interview with Sunday PUNCH, said no reasonable government would take such chances unless parents would be told to sign an undertaking.
Ogunyemi said, “Look, Kenya has said they have closed all their schools till next year (2021); they too have exams to write. Safety first. If it means closing the schools until next year to safeguard the lives of Nigerian children and safeguard the health of all Nigerians, so be it.
“So, if that will help us to address cases that can lead to increase in mortality, I think Nigerians should go that way and all of us should see reason for it. If they need to cancel admission for the year, it is good for them. Life matters first, people must have life first before they can go to university. Are the universities ready to work now?
“Our position is that they should not experiment with the lives of our children. Nobody can tell; the situation may soon normalise and they can do their exams and there is another opportunity for external candidates around November. So, it’s not as if the door is totally closed.”
The ASUU president added that the union had not seen any evidence to show that schools were secured for students to go back.
He said, “The first thing that should be tackled is whether schools are safe. And if the schools are not safe, why do you want to carry out an experiment with the lives of our children? An attempt to send back the children to school at a time there is a spike in COVID-19 cases in Nigeria is like experimenting with the lives of our children.
“If they put all the things in place, including social and physical distancing, sanitisers, kitting the children as we see in other places, decontamination with water flowing in the schools and all the gadgets, why not? So, if government can meet all these conditions, then they can reopen the schools. But if they cannot meet all these conditions, they should not experiment with even 10 students in any school.”
Meanwhile, the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools has said that its members are ready for school reopening and that as part of measures to curtail the spread of COVID-19, it has directed its members to open schools for about four hours daily.
NAPPS, in an interview with PUNCH oted that since the Federal Government had given the directive on school resumption for terminal classes, it was relating with its members nationwide on a number of safety protocols to put in place.
The NAPSS National President, Chief Yomi Otubela, said, “Our association, as the registered umbrella body of private schools in Nigeria, has been interfacing with Federal Government representatives, including the Ministry of Education and other agencies, concerning how to combat the spread of COVID-19.
“The fact that pupils are returning to school does not mean that we are going to spend the total hours as it used to be in the past. We are considering a little time of about three to four hours in school. This is to ensure that there is no room for children to go on break and play around the premises.
“And we have also discussed with our members that there should be staggered resumption. Staggered resumption means that if the JSS3 class comes to school by 8am, SSS3 can come by 9am and the Primary 6 classes can come by 10am. This is to ensure that we don’t get the entrances and the exits crowded.”
The president noted that schools had been instructed to have infrared thermometers, and also avoid teachers marking students’ books manually.