By Victor Ahiuma-Young
As the debate continues on re-opening of schools in Nigeria, amid a spike in COVID-19 infections across the country, unions in the nation’s education sector have given conditions for the reopening of schools in the country.
A communiqué issued at the end of a virtual meeting, signed by Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, President, Ayuba Wabba, among others, recommended that adequate infrastructure needed to be provided in schools to ensure effective enforcement of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, protocols and guidelines on COVID-19.
The unions, affiliated to the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, are Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and Associated Institutions, NASU, Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities, SSANU, Senior Staff Association of Polytechnics, SSANIP, Senior Staff Union of in Colleges of Education, Nigeria, SSUCOEN.
Others are National Association of Academic Technologist, NAAT, Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union, COEASU, and Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP.
Speaking through NLC’s Education Committee, they called for all-embracing stakeholders’ meeting to deliberate on the way forward on the need to re-open schools.
According to the communiqué, “re-opening of schools need to be done with due diligence and utmost precaution, given the overcrowded nature of schools at the both primary, secondary and tertiary levels.
“Government should bring all stakeholders in the primary and secondary education sub-sector— NUT, Parent Teachers Association, PTA, Committee of Vice-Chancellors/Provosts of Polytechnics and Colleges of Education, All Nigeria Confederation of Principals of Secondary Schools, ANCPSS— to deliberate on the way forward, on the need to re-open schools.
“There is a need to create a post-Covid-19 re-opening plans and strategies based on the NCDC protocol and guidelines. There is a need to re-adjust the budget for education and implement measures to assist institutions with the financial burden of managing COVID-19.
“There is need to train the staff of health centres in universities, polytechnics, colleges of education, secondary and primary schools, both teaching and non-teaching staff, on the handling of pupils and students. It is important to adopt phased/structured education activities, adjust exams and lecture/teaching time;
“There is need for National Safe School policies to assist educational institutions to conduct risk assessment audit of schools in the country.
“There is need to revisit the outsourcing policy of security personnel and cleaners, especially in institutions of higher learning to enable the institutions to have full control of the security personnel and cleaners, as private cleaners and security personnel cannot guarantee the health and safety of staff and students.
“There is need to provide Protective Equipment, PPEs, for health and other essential workers for their safety and protection.
“We call for the immediate releases of intervention funds to all institutions, to enable them to provide needed safety measures. There is a need for expansion of classrooms to ensure observance of the social distancing protocol.
There is a need to address the lingering industrial crisis, posed by the IPPIS, in the higher institutions, which has the potential of affecting any attempt at re-opening of schools.
“There is a need for an elaborate plan to determine the duration of classes and sitting arrangements to avoid infection. There is a need to ensure general decontamination/fumigation of entire premises and buildings, including students’ hostels, classrooms, staff offices, business premises, lecture halls/theatre, health centres/clinics etc.
“Additional employment of teachers to enable effective teacher/student relation, based on the social distancing protocol; provision of out-door learning environment for kids; strengthening e-learning facilities in primary, and tertiary institutions through provision of customised electronic devices to all staff and students.
“This is in order to complement traditional class settings and achieve physical distancing, and provision of free internet bandwidth in all institutions to be deployed free to members of staff and students within and around the school premises.”
On the part of both public and private institutions of learning, the communiqué recommended that upon reopening of all schools, there should be “COVID-19 committees, which will be charged with the responsibilities of ensuring strict compliance with the safety measures.
“The measures include regular handwashing with water and soap, hand sanitisers and, at a minimum, daily disinfection and cleaning of school surfaces and compulsory use of face masks by staff, students and visitors,” the communique concluded on reopening of schools.