***the numbers keep dropping ― Headteachers
By Ike Uchechukwu – Calabar
The advent of COVID-19 in Nigeria has affected a lot of things including education and mostly affected are primary school children.
Vanguard investigations showed that most primary schools in Cross River have lost pupils as many of them could not return to school after staying at home for months due to lockdown which was later worsened by the EndSARS protest which turned violent leading to the destruction of some government property in Cross River.
About 10 Primary Schools visited by Vanguard in three LGAs of the state, their population which used to be around 1000 to 1500 now stands at 400 and at most 600 pupils.
Many of the HeadTeachers who spoke with Vanguard complained that although they have attended various training on COVID-19 Protocol, more needed to be put in place so that more children can come back to school.
At Jehovah Shalom African Primary School, Akpabuyo LGA, the Head Teacher, Mrs Oqua Edet said although they have been able to put some items in place but more was required.
Her words: “Since we resumed, we have not received any form of assistance as it concerns COVID-19 rather, everything you can see where our personal and community effort.
“We provided the handwashing equipment including disinfectant, sanitizers and liquid soap and we ensure our children wear their nose mask too.
“From the entrance in the morning we make sure they wash their hands and we also ensure they maintain social distancing as well as physical too.
“We want to appeal to the authorities including government, UNICEF as well as good spirited individuals to assist us with some PPEs because we need them, our children and teachers need them.
“The soap we are using was produced by some teachers here in the school, and the funds are not there, they used their personal funds to do it and support from some good-spirited individuals from our community here.
“If we can get materials, some of our teachers are good at sewing they can make more nose masks for both the teachers and our children.
“To tell you the truth, our population had reduced, we now have about 200 children. It used to be more than this but COVID-19 has really changed a lot of things,” she said.
At St Peters Primary School, Akpabuyo, Ikot Offiong Ambai, the headteacher, Mrs Mary Asuquo Etim told Vanguard that her pupils have been using nose mask and observing the protocol diligently.
Her words: “We have using the mask and observing other COVID-19 protocol since we resumed, although we were trained by the government on that, but we were not giving PPEs, all you see here is our internal efforts.
“It affected our morning devotions because we can no longer gather as we used to in a bid to adhere to the protocol, we segment our devotion into different sets.
“We need a good Hall, we need borehole because the water supply is a big problem, it’s a big challenge for us. Our children come with mask, and sometimes they forget, in some cases, we send them back to get it.
“The most important thing is that, they are now all conscious of the virus, and always maintain good hygiene by washing their hands regularly.
“COVID-19 has also affected the population our children as many children no longer come to school, we used to have a strength of about 1000 pupils but they are not up to 400 now, due to the virus and EndSars protest which lead to destruction.
“We need more assistance from good-spirited organisations as well individuals to keep our schools safe,” she said.
At Ikom’s St Martin’s pro art school, Ikom, a teacher who pleaded anonymity said they resumed around 12 of October and the only thing they have was the nose mask whatsoever neither have they received any form of assistance.
The teachers said that a lot of the enlightened parents were withdrawing their kids from public schools because if the way the Protocol was been treated adding that, they cannot guarantee the safety of the children cause everything they have so far achieved was by the efforts some parents and good-spirited persons.
The source said: “The only thing we have is nose mask. Many people here don’t believe that there is COVID-19, and many are non-challant about it.
“The pandemic has really affected the population of our pupils we used to have about 1,200, they are now about 300 to 400.
“Most of the children who stayed home never came back to school only a few did return. We need assistance on sensitization and awareness so that our parents and the children can understand what the pandemic entails,” She said.
Some of the pupils told Vanguard that they were now comfortable wearing mask but explained that it was a bit difficult at first
Constance Aji and Blessing Ekpo Etim who spoke separately said they can breathe well with their mask and would encourage their peers to emulate them do that they won’t spread the virus.
But complained about having just one, they appealed for more mask from UNICEF, government and organisations to provide more for them.
Constance Aji said a primary 6b pupil said: “It is healthy to wise to put on a nose mask especially after washing your hands and sanitizing them.
“I can breath well in my nose mask, I am very comfortable with it, although it was difficult at first but I got used to it as time went on, I also wash my nose mask anytime I am washing my uniform and my mum irons it for me sometimes.
On her part Blessing Ekpo Etim a pupil said COVID- 19 has changed their lifestyle, “my mum bought me the nose mask I am wearing and our school is very strict on its use. Sometimes they drive us back home to get our nose mask when we come without it.”