By Kemi Olaitan
The Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), University of Ibadan chapter, Prof. Ayo Akinwole, Sunday faulted moves by government to reopen all schools especially universities without taking responsibility for the schools to meet COVID-19 precautionary guidelines.
Akinwole, in a statement made available to THISDAY on Sunday, said those leading the agitation for the reopening of schools are private school owners due to the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on them, warning that no pecuniary gains is more than the lives of lecturers and their students.
The ASUU boss, who noted that before COVID-19, public varsities are overcrowded with students while hostel facilities take more than its capacity, charged parents not to jubilate at the news of possible reopening of schools but that they should rather ask government to take responsibility for whatever surge in COVID-19 that may happen as a result of ill-thought out reopening.
He said while the National Assembly members can afford to observe social distancing in the National Assembly complex, the same is not possible with overcrowded classrooms due to the wickedness of the ruling class not to properly fund public education.
He maintained that ASUU, as a responsible union, owes Nigerians the duty to warn against the danger of not meeting NCDC guidelines and throwing the lives of the children of the masses to the possibility of contracting COVID-19.
According to him, “Our union notes that there have been agitations from some quarters on the government to reopen schools. Leading this campaign are the proprietors of private universities. ASUU is not in any way opposed to this call.
“However, Nigerians should honestly interrogate this position. Has the Nigerian government met the NCDC criteria on COVID-19 protocols in our institutions? Must we endanger the lives of our children for pecuniary gains? Are these agitations not borne out of protecting their business interests?
“COVID-19 is still very much with us. It is in recognition of this fact that the government itself has rolled out certain conditions to be met before schools are reopened. How many of our public institutions can confidently vouch for the safety of our children given the available facilities such as: provision of running water for hand washing; social distancing among students; the use of recommended masks and shields, which are key components of NCDC protocols?
“A situation where a room meant for four now houses 20 students cannot be said to be social-distancing compliant. What we are is simply saying is that the federal government should adhere to their own set guidelines. Our position, as a responsible union, on all these is that throwing schools open in the midst of all these, is an open invitation to tragic explosion of the COVID-19 scourge on a scale never witnessed anywhere since its outbreak! When this happens, Nigerians will not say that they were never warned.”