SWITZERLAND, JULY 01 – Nigerian teachers under the aegis of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) have kicked against the federal government’s plan to reopen schools amidst rising cases of coronavirus infections.
Addressing newsmen on Tuesday, NUT General Secretary, Mike Ene, said government was playing politics with the directive. He wondered how teachers, who had not been paid salaries in some states, would get money to buy personal protective equipment.
Ene spoke just as the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, on Tuesday became the latest prominent Nigerian to test positive for the virus.
Following the governor’s disclosure of his COVID-19 status, the state government ordered commissioners and other aides of Akeredolu to compulsorily go for the coronavirus test.
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, at its briefing in Abuja, said the government in what it called “safe reopening of schools,” had approved resumption of pupils in graduating classes including primary six, the Junior Secondary School 3 and the Senior Secondary School 3.
In approving the resumption of graduating classes, it said water must be provided in schools for hand-washing and both pupils and teachers must wear face masks while observing social distancing.
However, the president of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Professor Innocent Ujah, has also advised against the government’s decision.
The NMA president asked, “What is the compliance of the citizens in terms of regular hand-washing and other safety protocols? At the moment, many of the schools don’t even have water. Obviously, it becomes very difficult to say that schools should reopen because you have to wash your hands regularly.
“Again, I don’t know how the teachers would be teaching with face masks and all the pupils will wear face masks. If you are not used to face masks, you may not breathe well, particularly if the one you have is not standard.”
He also said it would be difficult to observe social distancing in crowded classrooms. Ujah stated, “I believe the government should think about it. If they can stay a little, people have to be alive to go to school and the way things are happening, the compliance level is still very low. I don’t think it is appropriate to open the schools now.”
Also, the NUT general secretary said government was not serious with its directive. He said teachers could not resume because nobody wanted to die.
He stated, “I don’t know who is going to use his own child as a guinea pig. It is only those who are alive that can speak of keeping hope alive. How can we resume? Does anybody want to die?”
Ene said if government wanted teachers to resume, they should be provided with necessary materials and incentives.
The NUT general secretary stated, “The NUT is saying that the government has not assured us properly to go back to school. Has the NCDC (Nigeria Centre for Disease Control) moved around to make sure that the isolation centres are provided in schools? What measures have they told us have been provided for teachers to come back?
“We are being taken for granted. Teachers are parents and human beings too and their children don’t want to lose them out of carelessness. We are ready. We are not afraid to teach. But government has not shown commitment for us to go back to school. All what the government is doing is mere politics.
“When you talk of guidelines, we have passed the stage of talking without actions. I just read a text from a certain school asking my daughter who is going to take final exams to come back. They are demanding sanitisers, face masks and other consumables, thereby throwing back the burden to parents who have already been overstretched with feeding their children since they have been at home.
“But government has reneged on what it should do. In a class of 60, 40 or 70 pupils, you’re talking of physical and social distancing. Can a teacher take a class from 8am to 2pm, 2pm to 5pm and 5pm to 10pm? What is the PPE that government has given to teachers?
“If a teacher is going to face many pupils in a class, and has no PPE, how will the teacher function or they expect him to use his meagre salary? I don’t know if government is aware that as of today so many states and local governments are owing teachers.”