By Victoria Ojeme
One of the sectors hampered since the COVID-19 pandemic started in December 2019 is education and to a large extent, children have been affected especially as they have been forced to stay at home for more than nine months.
In the process, lots of measures were put in place including virtual learning. Some of the state governments used the opportunity to explore various avenues in digital learning and it paid off, despite hitches here and there.
Now that the Federal Government of Nigeria has directed that both public and private schools open for the academic session on January 18, 2021, so that children can continue their normal education; the big question is, should the children continue to stay at home? Is there a way to manage the pandemic whilst the children resume their normal education? Can school teachers and counsellors give their best in ensuring the safety of the children in school? Will the COVID-19 protocols be strictly adhered to by all stakeholders? Who will take the responsibility should anything go wrong, Government, Parents or School administrators?
Against this background, WO investigated the reopening of schools in some parts of the country.
Some of the people who spoke are of the opinion that there is no alternative to reopening of schools. According to them, the ills involved in shutting down schools are devastating compared to the merits.
Some of them revealed some school teenagers have been impregnated as a result of the lockdown, while some of the boys are into drugs and other vices in the community.
Every school should have medical teams —Eugenia Okafor, a teacher at the Government Junior School, Abuja
In my opinion, schools reopening has no option as far as I am concerned. For how long are we going to keep our children at home? I am not health personnel but I must tell you that this virus we are talking about is a senior brother of malaria, that is the way I look at it.
Let’s ask ourselves this question, how many hospitals in this country have good equipment and for how long are Nigerians going to wait for the Federal Government to put even 10% of hospitals in order?
My only advice to school owners both private and the public is that there should be a medical team in every school that will checkmate every activity concerning possible guidelines in preventing worst cases in children.
How often do we see task forces in our schools?
With all the monies we hear that the Federal Government has been borrowing for COVID-19, by now, every government should have one ambulance packed in every government school and the private schools also get their own subscriptions. That will make things work faster.
You are asking children to stay at home and your own children have resumed schooling abroad.
Education in Nigeria should not be traded for anything, even the white man who started education is still going to school in this pandemic period so why should ours be different?
Our children must go to school so this issue of, there is going to be a lockdown or not should arise at all for now. That is my take.
We did not receive palliative —Dorcas Peter, proprietress, Simbi Nursery and Primary school, FCT
I want to condemn the Federal Government’s option of thinking lockdown is the best solution for COVID-19.
For how long will our children stay at home? Can’t they see that our country Nigeria is at a standstill?
During the first lockdown, Nigerians went into, I read on the pages of papers that the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs gave palliatives to all Nigerians one on one.
But I never got any; neither did any of my staff.
Let the government do the right thing. Over the year that we have had this Coronavirus, Nigeria is yet to test 1/3 of Nigerians, hospitals are not equipped, people pay to do Coronavirus test now. What a country!
As you can see, my team I and are taking perfect measures, each class have ten students with their face masks on and also a bottle of hand wash and sanitiser.
It’s good for their mental health —Don
Professor Adebukola Osunyinkanmi is of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Adekunle Ajasin University and proprietress of Mabest Academy in Akure, Ondo State.
What do you think the effect of School re-opening will be on children?
I think the children have shown incredible resolve during this time, despite the uncertainty. I think re-opening could give a lot of children the opportunity to finally interact with their peers after a while. I believe the proper health and safety precautions could have a beneficial impact on mental health.
It would also give children and their teachers the opportunity to recommence learning in a more approachable manner.
Do you think the reopening of school is an option?
I think this would depend largely on the government’s health directive. It would also depend on the rate of COVID transmission in each city. So, although we are particularly happy that schools are currently open and students can resume learning normally to an extent, it is important for us to be observant of these factors that might influence the current position and avoid negative development.
Do you believe that caregivers are always nonchalant when it comes to taking charge of the environment?
I do not think they are nonchalant. Almost all caregivers perform their duties professionally.
Note that they are the most vulnerable since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. They lost some of their colleagues while helping other people to survive.
So they are extremely careful. They must be commended for the great services they offer.
Possible guidelines in preventing worst cases in children…
Children must be properly monitored. Parents and teachers owe them the duty of care at this moment. Negligence is not acceptable. It is easy for children to forget that times are different, particularly much younger children.
So it is important that we ensure they adhere to all health regulations. We, as adults and caretakers, also have a responsibility to provide safeguards and protection in their immediate environment e.g. school, home, etc.
The aim is not to raise fear but to make them understand and become familiar with protective routines e.g washing their hands, wearing their masks, social distancing, etc.
In your own opinion, who should bear more responsibility?
This is a time for collective efforts. We must all collaborate to defeat the virus. This is a war between humanity and the pandemic. As we are aware, a team is as strong as its weakest link. So there must be no weak link in our communities. All must observe the required non-pharmaceutical protocols. With shared responsibility, we are going to have a shared victory.
Should education be traded for anything in the country and in your opinion, what is the fate of Nigerian education in the midst of COVID-19?
One thing is certain about Nigerians, it is that they find a way. Despite the setbacks, the loss, the uncertainty, we have seen Nigerians rise to the occasion.
I don’t believe this will be any different. I think it is also important to acknowledge the areas that have been significantly impacted during this time, in order to make progress in our education sector.
Surely, our school system will survive. Nigeria will outlive the health crisis. Education will always be a winner.