By Dr. Maimuna Paul
The outbreak of Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is the most threatening global public health crisis of our time. It is one of the greatest challenges that human race is facing presently.
First detected in the city of Wuhan, China, and reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on the 31st December 2020, the virus has since spread to every nooks and crannies of the world with its reported cases rising globally on daily basis.
It poses as a serious threat to nations of the world attacking societies to the core by creating one of the devastating health, socio-economic and political crisis the world has ever experienced.
Due to spate and speed of its spread, nations are left with no option than to take drastic containment measures including lockdown, quarantine and curfews.
As it stands, the United Kingdom (UK) is the second country after United States of America (USA) that has passed the millstone of 40,000 death tolls. As at 14th June, 2020, there had been 7,690,708 confirmed cases including 427,630 deaths globally (WHO dashboard).
With the geometrical spread of the virus and alarming increase in daily deaths of victims, developed nations of Europe, USA, Italy, Asia and others announced the closure of their schools. Some African nations like South Africa, Algeria followed suit. Nigeria on her part announced that all schools to close on the 26th March, 2020 as part of the measures to curb the spread of the virus. This is line with the international best practices, giving the federal government of Nigeria kudos for the prompt action it has taken.
Since the closure of Schools, there has been unending agitation by the Parents, Stakeholders, Teachers and Students for Schools resumption. While it is imperative to take the future of the children into consideration, it should also be emphatically noted that yielding to this agitation should be done with caution to avoid endangering the lives of the citizens.
As Nigeria continues to record more cases of the deadly virus daily, it should be noted that children must be alive before they are educated. The Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajuiba, in response to some of these agitation, stated during a Presidential Task Force on COVID -19 (PTF) briefing on Monday 8th June, 2020 that some countries that opened schools hurriedly had to shut them back when their cases of the virus spiked up.
He said I quote: “we heard about cases that spike with kids coming to school and of all the things I want to do, I am not going to want to experiment with your kids.”
He emphasized that the government of Nigeria wants a situation where the safety of the children will be guaranteed before they resume school.
Observation has shown that with the easing of restrictions on worship centres, market places, people have been going about their normal businesses as usual without adhering to public health measures like social distancing, use of hand sanitizers and wearing of face masks.
At the risk of sounding alarming, if care is not taken, by the time the virus peaked, the total populace of Nigeria will be COVID-19 positive,
God forbid as we forbid it too. If enforcing public health measures is nearly impossible with the adult citizens of Nigeria, what more can be expected with children?
In most public schools across the nation there are large population of about 800 to1000 Students with almost 200 students in a class. Students are always seen clustered either during break, games and other extra- curricular activities. Physical distancing in such an environment is practically impossible.
The delay in re-opening of schools by the Nigeria government is a step in the right direction as some measures have to be put in place before the re-opening of schools at all level.
Below are some of the recommended guidelines for the government, Parents, Stakeholders, Teachers and Students alike for safe re-opening of schools:
1. First and most important, all schools across the nation should be decontaminated before resumption.
2. Physical distancing protocol should be strictly followed to wit: only 25-30 students should be allowed in a class. Clearly, to achieve this, more structures (classroom) has to be put in place as most of the public schools in the country are in state of comatose and disrepair.
3. Government should provide infrared forehead thermometers to test the temperature of both the students and the teachers at the gates.
4. There should be provision of running taps by sinking water boreholes.
5. Hand sanitizers and other detergent should also be provided by the government for students to wash and sanitize their hands.
6. Parents and guardians must provide face masks for their children/wards.
7. Teachers who are now the front liners must be provided with safety kits and risk allowance.
8. There should be sensitization programmes to create awareness on the dangers of Coronavirus to human life.
9. Schools with high population should embark on morning and afternoon shifts. The junior students to come in the morning while the senior ones comes in the afternoon.
COVID-19 is real and a lot of people have died as a result. Governments of the developed nations of the world find its containment difficult leading to the rising cases.
Similarly, the number of cases in Nigeria has been consistently rising on daily basis. The number of newly confirmed cases by NCDC on Friday, the 12th June, 2020 was 68 bringing the total confirmed cases in Nigeria to 13,464 and the total number of deaths tolls to 365 while 4,206 were discharged.
The virus has killed over four million and over seven million people have been infected around the globe since the outbreak emerged in Wuhan, China last year (WHO situation report 14th June, 2020).
As we face the challenge of COVID-19 as a nation, let’s not neglect essential guidelines that will guarantee our safety.
This study therefore, concludes that all the suggested guidelines should be taken into consideration before reopening the schools in order to curb the spread of the Coronavirus that has shown that it had the capacity to put the entire humanity in jeopardy.
Dr Maimuna Yusuf Paul, is a Teacher of many years standing