COVID-19: Don Decries Reopening of Schools

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By Funmi Ogundare

A Professor in the Department of History, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Kemi Rotimi, yesterday described the recent reopening of schools in the country as government pandering in the business interest of private school owners, as their businesses have been on hold for a long time.

Rotimi, who was a guest at The Morning Show on Arise News TV, also expressed regret that the same government that had forced the people to participate in NIN registration during the COVID-19 pandemic is now forcing students back to school.

“I teach in Obafemi Awolowo University, but I do not know what is in place to encourage the return of students to school in the university that cannot guarantee the safety of many students who will resume school when they announce the date for resumption. What do you do about social distancing? There is no room in OAU that contains less than six students. What are you going to do about that? “

He said when schools reopened before the Christmas holiday, the government had thought that because there were not too many deaths, the people were free to go back to school, alerting that the country is taking a big risk.

The don expressed concern that the government’s decision to reopen schools may not augur well for the public school system, as nothing has been put in place for the safety of the students.

“This is a gambler’s game. It’s like the country is waiting to see a spike and how many people will be affected. Then we will go back again to whether we should shut down the schools or not. People just want to keep the schools opened, but are we taking cognizant of what can happen if there is spike in the virus?” He asked.

Asked if the country should look at the way of online learning’s rather than reopening schools, he said: “Online learning can be like the new normal to you, but the pandemic came to everybody unprepared, and in the third world settings, nothing has been put in place for online learning. Most public universities in Nigeria cannot do online learning, and you cannot change that overnight, because the basic facilities are not even there.

“As I am talking to you, I am running on generator just to be able to connect with you. So the online learning that the proprietors of private schools have been talking about as if it’s a big deal, we are not prepared for it, and we are not going to achieve that overnight.”

Rotimi said it is the responsibility of those who own the schools to ensure that they make provisions for the students to be able to survive, adding: “How many public institutions in Nigeria have usable toilets? At a time like this, hygiene comes first, but the government has announced schools reopening as its priority. What have they put in place? This is a praying nation that believes that God will protect us, but by the time we start having cases and they are rushed to the health centres that have no provision for anything, it may mean big trouble.”

The don said: “Nigeria will never know how many people that will fall victim of this pandemic because of the challenge we have with statistics. The case of a school in Lekki happened because it’s a private school. The population of pupils and students in public schools is the challenge, and it is a major one. We know what the challenge is which is sanitation in our public institutions.

“On the development of app for online learning, many universities in Nigeria have distance learning programmes and they do online study, it’s not as if it’s new to us, it is about expanding the base to cover all students. We all know what has happened between the federal government and ASUU, even as we speak, there is still an unfinished business. So ASUU can develop the app. I am an anti-strike advocate, but we should be more productive.”