Nigerian students have asked the government to put measures in place to guarantee their safety as the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 mulls the idea of reopening schools as part of the next phase of lifting restrictions put in place to stop the spread of Coronavirus.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities had on Monday warned the Nigerian Government not to reopen tertiary institutions across the country without concrete measures put in place to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.
Students, who will be directly affected by the decision to either reopen schools or keep it shut told SaharaReporters on Tuesday that their major concern was the implenemation of social distancing guidelines considering the already crowded and poor facilities in public schools across the country.
Peace Ifunnaya Godspower, a student of the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Enugu State, expressed concern over her colleague, who has a respiratory condition that predisposes her to complications if she contracts COVID-19 in school.
She said, “Their children are already leaving for schools abroad because its September.
“I have a course mate who has asthma and she is worried that if they say we should resume and she contracts COVID-19 by mistake, it may result to something else and you cannot tell her to stay at home while the rest of us resume.
“In fact, since this whole thing started, her parents have not allowed her to go out because they are scared something bad might happen to her.
“I have no problem with resuming as long as the government can guarantee our safety like their children.”
Mahmood Abdullahi Loke, Senate President of the students union at the Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State, said the government cannot afford to continue keeping schools shut because of the long term impact on development.
He, however, expressed concern on overcrowding especially among 100 level students.
He said, “In the case of schools reopening, we will only be bias if we ask the Federal Government not to reopen schools.
“A lot of things are going on. Markets are open already, that is enough to justify the opening of schools. The infection rate of COVID-19 has reduced drastically if you check the chart these days.
“Many schools are already putting measures in place for school reopening, it will be biased to say schools should not reopen. National development has been halted because students are at home.”
Soneye Abdul-Azeez, Student Union President at Tai Solarin University of Education, Ogun State, called on all students bodies president’s to insist with ASUU that the Nigerian Government put tangible measures in place to protect students.
He said, “Students are ready to resume but any failure to resume will be on the part of the government, the weakness of the government.
“As ASUU had rightly said, the government cannot just order resumption without making provision for resumption and I think that should be the position of students union leaders. We are ready to resume but there should be a mimimum standard that will guarantee the safety of both students and workers when they resume to campus.”
Abdul-Azeez also lamented the absence of e-learning facilities on government-funded campuses, which had created a gap in education between students in public and private universities in the country.
He said, “For some of us (students union leaders), we see that this COVID-19 had really revealed the irresponsibility of government that is long overdue to be tackled.
“The same people who are owners of private institutions are people who control the government, so it is nothing new.
“At least we have had the experience of ASUU strike that was over six.months and private universities were going on with their activities, so it is almost nothing new, the only difference is that this one is not caused by an industrial action but by a pandemic.
“If our public institutions had been provided with e-learning facilities, we would have benefited like our counterparts in private universities.”
SaharaReporters, New York