THE Criterion, an association of Muslim women in business and the professions, has expressed reservations about the decision of the Federal Government to reopen schools.
The group said although it recognised the toll the prolonged locking of schools is taking on the learners, teachers and even the economy of the country, it would be unwise for the government to reopen schools now, considering the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
A statement by the National Amirah, Hajiya Fatymah Oyefeso and the National Public Affairs Secretary, Hajiya Amina Abdussalam, the Criterion cited South Korea and Israel which, it claimed, reopened schools and had to shut them again when cases of coronavirus infection spiked.
It argued that there are not enough healthcare facilities in Nigeria to cater for the citizens and as such, resuming schools would endanger the lives of students as well as teachers.
The group, however, underscored the need for the government to ensure that effective measures are taken towards a safe reopening of schools.
It urged the government to support private schools with palliatives as a way of cushioning the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on school owners and teachers.
Its statement reads in part: “The fact that prolonged locking of schools is taking its toll on the learners, teachers and even the overall economy cannot be neglected.
Online teaching/learning comes with its own challenges; power supply, cost of data, internet instability among others.
“The social, psychological/emotional and economic effects on the learners is also worthy of consideration. Likewise, keeping children at home for a long period may lead to other vices like bad gangs, unwanted pregnancy etc…”
“In the same vein, those who were preparing for the final year examinations in the last three months and could not write them till today are at potential risk of psychological trauma.
“The extended closure of schools has a negative toll on the economy of school owners and invariably on private school teachers who have no other means of income and whose life and living are already threatened with or without the presence of COVID-19.
On the contrary, a deep look into the pros and cons of reopening schools one would ask, why were schools closed in the first place? This was necessary in order to follow the guidelines to prevent infection and slow transmission of COVID-19.
“In addition, the objective of closing schools was to avoid overcrowding to prevent spread, sharing of utilities such as toilets etc., since social and physical distancing may be difficult to comply with.
Other pertinent issues to consider are; to what extent have adults been able to comply with medical advice of wearing face masks, as non-compliance has been largely fuelled by scepticism and ignorance about the disease.
“Majority have not complied, many don’t wear, others wear ‘chin mask’ not covering nose, face nor mouth, hence how easy will it be for children to comply and even wear the mask for six or more hours.
“Also, how long will teachers be able to prevent physical interactions among students without getting fed up, or how easy is it to ask children not to go out and play, what will they do during break?
“Furthermore, if children get infected, they may be asymptomatic but at home, they have the tendency to spread the virus to their parents who are at risk with other conditions that may aggravate the disease.
“Considering the increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases in Nigeria (over 23,000), it would be unsafe for students and unwise of the Nigerian government to reopen schools.
“Reopening schools now may lead to severe consequences as experienced in other countries. For instance, South Korea reopened schools and had to shut them again when cases spiked. There was the recent case of Israel that also reopened the schools and had to shut them again.
“No doubt, there are not enough health care facilities to cater for citizens hence resuming schools will endanger the lives of students as well as teachers.
“The curve of COVID-19 has not flattened, so what is the basis for reopening schools? Even if the virus has come to stay, Nigeria is not sufficiently ready to handle the potential outburst that can be associated with school reopening.
“The country does not have sufficient bed spaces in isolation centres, hence the government should allow more time to establish coping strategies like splitting schools into morning, afternoon and evening sessions, twice a week attendance, temperature screening for all, among others. These measures should be within a time-bound period and have a task force to enforce them”.
Source: The Nation
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