Again, ASUU cautions against school reopening

• Says ongoing strike a ‘patriotic duty’

ACADEMIC Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has again warned against reopening universities now, insisting that there is nothing on the ground to guarantee the safety of students and staff against the ravaging new coronavirus disease.

Addressing a press conference on Wednesday in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, the coordinator, Ibadan zone of ASUU, Professor Ade Adejumo, said the union is not in any way opposed to reopening of universities, but that it is not expedient to do so now.

He said: “Throwing schools open in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic is an open invitation to tragic explosion of the scourge on a scale never witnessed anywhere since its outbreak,” calling on Nigerians to “honestly interrogate this position.”

The Ibadan zone of the union comprises University of Ibadan, University of Ilorin, Osun State University, Osogbo; Kwara State University, Malete, and Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso.

Adejumo noted that there had been agitations from some quarters for the government to reopen schools, especially by proprietors of private universities, but stressed that lives of students should not be endangered for pecuniary gains.

“Has the Nigerian government met the NCDC criteria on COVID-19 protocol in our institutions? Should the primary issue on life and death be used on profit matter? COVID-19 is still very much with us. It is in recognition of this fact that the government itself has rolled out certain conditions to be met before schools are reopened.

“How many of our public institutions can confidently vouch for the safety of our children given the available facilities such as provision of running water for hand washing, social distancing among students; the use of recommended face masks and shields, which are key components of NCDC protocols?

“A situation where a room meant for four now houses 20 students cannot be said to be social distancing-compliant. Our position, as a responsible union on all these is that throwing schools open in the midst of all these is an open invitation to tragic explosion of the COVID-19 scourge on a scale never witnessed anywhere since its outbreak. When this happens, Nigerians will not say that they were never warned.”

On the union’s subsisting nationwide strike, Adejumo said members of the union would not resume work even if government reopens universities, saying, “it is our responsibility to call government’s attention to its duties to the nation and its citizens. This we have done and there is no going back.”

He added: “In spite of the government’s attempt to blackmail ASUU for going on strike while corona virus ravages the nation, it is instructive to put it on record that the strike at that point in time was the most patriotic and pragmatic action for the union to embark on. One would have thought that the government would use the opportunity of the lockdown to address the issues in contention with ASUU. Surprisingly, the government was carrying on as if the problems no longer exist. As we speak, the government has not called ASUU for discussion.”


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