COVID-19 safety protocols, rundown facilities may further stall universities’ reopening — Investigation

"We'll suspend strike if FG pays salaries, complete negotiations" — ASUU

By Adesina Wahab, Joseph Erunke, Shina Abubakar & James Ogunnaike

EVEN if the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, calls off its eight-month-old strike now, federal universities in the country are not likely to reopen until early next year, findings by Vanguard have revealed.

Checks by our corespondents across the country show that the universities are yet to put in place COVID-19 safety protocols, while many of the lecture theaters and halls of residence, that have been abandoned for months, are now begging for attention.

Also, the fumigation of campuses promised by the government in the thick of the Corona virus pandemic has not been done in most cases.

The Federal Government earlier announced some conditions to be met for the resumption of teaching and learning in schools, among which are fumigation and decontamination of the premises.

The Minister of State, Education, Chief Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, who outlined the measures needed to be taken by all institutions for safe reopening listed hand-washing facilities, body temperature checks and body disinfectants at all points of entry to major facilities including the gates, hostels, classes, offices, etc.

Also, social and physical distancing must be maintained.

Lecture theaters/ halls of residence

In most of the universities, lecture theaters and halls of residence are in bad shape, as they have not been put to use for months.

At the Bohemia Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State, the 1,000-seater lecture theater is now a shadow of itself, while students say the hall is no longer suitable for use.

Though efforts were made to repair the ceiling which caved in, many of the seats were ignored.

A 200-Level students of African Languages, who pleaded anonymity, said, “Many of our lecture halls are still in bad shape despite the long industrial action, check lecture halls like, ODD I and II, 1000-seater, lecture rooms at Yellow and White Houses as well as those at the Social Sciences.

“The seats at ODDs I &II have spout and no one is fixing them, lectures rooms at Faculties of Law and Humanities are also without seats while many buildings have been defaced.”

Angola Hall in OAU, which is usually allotted to fresh students, is also in bad condition.

A student, Wale Adegbesan, described the toilet facility in the hall as completely unhygienic despite the intervention of the Alumni Association during 2018/19 academic session.

He added that though the school authority had made efforts not to overstretch the facilities at the halls of residence by allocating hostels to freshers and final year students alone, the facilities were still under enormous pressure due to huge student population.

However, OAU’s spokesperson, Abiodun Olanrewaju, said the school is repairing some buildings and lecture theaters, saying the school had anticipated that students would resume classes after COVID-19 had been put under control.

“We have made some repairs, we have anticipated that after the end of COVID-19 students will return to classrooms. We have repainted some of the buildings and renovation is ongoing but we can’t keep renovating when the students are not on ground, but there is nothing wrong with our lecture theaters. The way the student left it, all we need do is to do some repairs and minor adjustments here and there.

“You know if people do not live in a house you know what happens to such a house, the university environment is not an exception to that, even in their respective homes, when they do not live in their rooms, they know how it looks like,” he added.

The story is not different at the University of Lagos, UNILAG, as some halls of residence have parts of their roofs blown off, while weeds have taken over the premises.

Commenting on the development, the Head of the Information Unit, Mrs Olufadeke Akinleye, said the management is not leaving anything to chance to ensure that students resume under a conducive atmosphere.

“We have taken an inventory of the state of our lecture rooms and halls of residence. Where we need to do some repairs, like in Tinubu Hall, we are doing the repairs. We are set and if the industrial action is called off, we can ask our students to resume few days after,” she stated.

At the University of Abuja, UNIABUJA, the Public Relations Officer, Dr Habib Yakoob, told Vanguard that the school is prepared for resumption as it has put necessary COVID-19 preventive measures in place.

He said:” Let me say that the University of Abuja was among the first universities that quickly put up strategies to address the Covid-19 pandemic as soon as it became obvious that it  was going to affect the country including public universities.

“As I speak with you, we have several hand washing points and sanitisers dispensers are installed in several parts of the campus.

The school has been fumigated several times and this is a continuous process, but we are operating at optimum level, and so very prepared to resume anytime the school is asked to reopen.”

At the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Kolawole Salako, told Vanguard that the university is ready for full resumption of academic activities, saying the classrooms, hostels and other offices have been fumigated up to five times between March and November.


Strike: We are still consulting – ASUU 

Meanwhile, there are indications that the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, may take a few days to resolve, as the union said it is still consulting on what its reply will be to the offers the Federal Government made for it to end the strike.

The National President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, said this on Tuesday in a chat with Vanguard.

According to him, the consultation is with members across the country and other critical stakeholders.

“We have what the government is offering and have transmitted same to our members nationwide and we are consulting on what the next line of action will be. You know a tree does not make a forest and our union is democratic in nature and practice.

“As for how long the consultation would take, I cannot say but it may go beyond this week. Whatever we decide on is definitely going to be in national interest, the interest of our children, the interest of our members and the good of all, ” he said.

Recall that after a series of meetings the leadership of the union held with the government team led by the Minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige, the government promised to pay the withheld salaries of lecturers ranging from four to eight months.

The government also said it would release N75 billion for the revitalization of the system and the payment of Earned Academic Allowances.

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