Report: Lack of sanitisers, facemasks disrupt school reopening process in Abuja amidst COVID-19
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IN the past five months, students have been at home due to the shutdown of public and private schools through a directive of the federal government to curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
To prepare for the conduct of examinations for students in exit classes, schools were told to reopen to Junior and Secondary School Student three (JSS 3 & SS3). However, lack of provision of hand sanitizers, facemasks has disrupted resumption in some schools in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory. A visit by The ICIR reporter to some schools in the FCT revealed this.
Students of Junior Secondary School, Wuse Zone 2 were seen sitting outside the school gate, some sitting on bricks reading from their notebook, some standing idly while others engaged in conversations they missed having in the last five months.
The students told The ICIR they heard in the news that they are to resume school for academic activities in preparation for West African Examination Council (WAEC) examinations but realised their schools are not ready for them.
Collins Okafor and Awal Yunus, sat close to their classroom eagerly waiting for their teachers but they spent their early hours of resumption with the security guards on the premises of the school with no teacher in sight until 10:00 am.
Okafor told The ICIR how much he has missed coming to school, saying that he is glad school activities are resumed.
“I miss coming to school and I miss my friends too, they said it would be different but it’s okay because I have been at home for about five months, going to the shop with my mum,” Okafor said.
The school premises is covered with overgrown grasses.
At the school gate of the school, students expected to be checked in after washing hands and having their temperature taken, but that was not so.
There was, in fact, no provision for hand sanitizers, no facemasks for the students, the water basin provided is empty and appears it has not been in use for a long time.
This level of unpreparedness was found not only in Junior Secondary School, Wuse Zone 2 but also at the Maitama Model School, Maitama when The ICIR reporter visited.
At the entrance to the Junior Secondary section of Maitama Model, there was no temperature check, no hand sanitizer or soap and water for washing of hands.
Students of the school were not checked for compliance with the wearing of facemasks at the school gate.
Like students in Junior Secondary School, Wuse Zone 2, Students of Maitama Model (junior) were also seen sitting idly at the school premises as they conversed with each other.
The government did not provide protective materials
Following observations by The ICIR reporter, the authorities of Maitama Model and Junior Secondary School Wuse Zone 2 were respectively asked to state reasons for the unpreparedness.
The Vice-Principal of Maitama Model (junior), Gambo A. Alako said the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has failed to provide protective materials for the reopening of the school.
“We have not received anything from the FCTA for us to reopen, we were not even aware until yesterday.
“The Principal is not around, we just called the Parent Teachers Association (PTA) Chairman to come to school so that we would know how to get the things and tell the students to go home until we are ready,” Alako said.
At the absence of the Principal of Junior Secondary School, Wuse Zone 2, a teacher of the school who refused to give her name because she is not allowed to speak on behalf of the school said the preparations are just starting today.
She added that the students would be asked to go home pending the time the school would be ready to accommodate them for academic activities.
Adherence to PTF protocols in some schools
Unlike the schools earlier visited, facemasks, hand washing equipment, hand sanitizers, and temperature checks were made mandatory to all staff and students of the Government Secondary School, Wuse Zone 3.
The ICIR reporter observed that students without facemasks were made to wait at the gate before eventually given a facemask.
The Principal of the school, Essien Enenwa Okon said the government has provided the school with all necessities to ensure a safe reopening
.“All that we need, FCTA has given to us, you can see here, the hand wash, sanitizers, also in the hall, FCTA has been able to provide facemasks free of charge to all the children,” the principal said.
She added that except for the main hall, 15 students would occupy a classroom in the school in contrast to the norms.
An SS3 student of the school, who identified himself as Filimon told The ICIR reporter he is glad to be back to school after the long break.
According to him, he has missed school because E-learning has not been as effective as conventional learning for him.
“I’m so happy that I am back in school because I miss a lot because learning on the internet, you will not understand as classes, so I am so happy,” Filimon said.
Before The ICIR reporter left the school, students were lectured on the causes, danger and the spread of COVID-19.
At the Government Secondary School, Zone 4 an almost similar approach was taken; however, grasses were still being cut in the premises of the school which signified that the school has not been disinfected.
The ICIR reporter observed that students in the senior secondary section of the school commenced lectures while social distancing was strictly observed.
Refusal to speak
Out of the five schools visited by The ICIR reporter, two of the principals refused to speak to The ICIR journalist.
The Principal of Government Secondary School (senior), Wuse Zone 4 said he has been directed by the government not to speak to any journalist.
“You are allowed to go and see the students in the class but don’t take their pictures or ask any question,” the principal said.
He made a staff of the school, Marshall Nuru, accompany The ICIR reporter to ensure that students are not being asked questions.
The Principal of Maitama Model (Senior) and Government Secondary School, Area 10 also instructed the security not to allow journalists to come inside the school premises.
Abubakar Dan-Asabe, the Special Assistant to the FCTA Minister acknowledged that some schools have not been provided with the necessities yet.
“Distribution of the equipment is a gradual process and it is still on-going, as I speak to you, they (ministry) are still visiting the schools,” Dan-Asabe said.
Dan- Asabe added that some schools have already gotten their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and they have resumed activities.
Fears spread as Students resume
Nasir Idris, the National President of Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) on Monday told The Guardian that the Union is concerned as measures put in place by the government might be insufficient to curb the spread of the virus in schools.
He said primary and secondary school students are very vulnerable to the virus because they might fail to adhere to the guidelines when they meet with their friends.
“Primary and secondary school students are very young people; they will be more vulnerable.
Besides, by the time they see their classmates after these four months, some of them will forget about the issue of washing hands, using hand sanitisers and face masks.
They will continue to hug themselves and, at the end of the day, many will be infected,” Idris said.
Idris noted that the teachers might be forced to withdraw their services if the government fails to provide measures in compliance with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) guidelines.
“If the government refuses to put COVID-19 protocols in place, we will have no other option but to meet with our members and withdraw our services because the pandemic is increasing day by day.
We will take stock state by state and ensure that in any place they have not provided the COVID-19 protocols, we will withdraw our service,” he added.