COVID-19: Why we are against reopening of universities ― ASUU

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has cautioned the Federal Government against the hasty reopening of universities because of the rising cases of the  COVID-19 pandemic and concerns about the safety of lecturers.

President of ASUU, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, warned the goverment against January 18, 2020, set for the resumption of schools, arguing that Nigerian universities were not ready to reopen in the middle of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ogunyemi who spoke on Sunrise Daily programme, on Tuesday, expressed fears about the death of many University workers as a result of COVID-19 complications, saying a situation where “lecturers are dying like chicken” calls for concern.

The National Universities Commission (NUC) had earlier directed universities to resume academic activities on January 18 in line with the tentative date announced by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 pandemic.

Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, however, said on Monday that this date was not sacrosanct and that it was being reviewed by the Ministry.

Ogunyemi asked the Federal Government to review the decision, as more COVID-19 cases continue to be reported across the country.

He dismissed insinuating that ASUU grounded academic activities in universities for almost 10 months as a result of the prolonged strike and that the lecturers were not prepared to work, saying the lecturers were only demanding for what they think is necessary for them to have a suitable environment to perform optimally.

He insisted that what ASUU is doing is in the interest of the system and the country.

He said ASUU has not said anywhere that they were not ready to resume, stressing that what the Union was asking the goverment to do before resumption was to put necessary facilities in place in conformity with COVID-19 protocols to prevent the spread of the virus on campuses.

“We are ready to resume but it should be everybody’s concern that professors are dying like a chicken on our campuses in the last few weeks,” he said.

He recalled that some weeks ago, NUC requested universities to submit what they required to open, saying the universities sent their “reports to them and to what extent has NUC address the request from Universities.”

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He said: “We have the right to be worried as it affects the welfare of our members. The welfare of our members should be paramount in the operation, that is what is missing here. Let people not misunderstand us. We also face the same challenge, Two of my children are at home and many of colleagues have their children back home.

“Our concern is rooted in the safety of our members. What happens to congested hostels, crowded classrooms? What flexible arrangements are in place? It is a situation of emergency. I’m not sure the Universities can cope,” he said.

On e-learning, ASUU President said it was unfortunate that about 60 per cent of students do not have Android devices or smartphones while noting that infrastructures should be provided to support learning management system.

“We are aware that some universities are putting measures in place, with alternative learning models. Some are even trying blended classes, virtual and physical. But these efforts are limited. They get to a point they can’t go further.

“ASUU has been talking about revitalisation since 2012. These are some of the areas where the assistance would have helped. Universities need huge funds to do this.

“People are saying start virtual classes, but more than 60 per cent of our students will run into trouble, they can’t afford data or smartphones,” he said.

Ogunyemi, however, reassured the students that ASUU members are fully ready and prepared to teach.

He said: “Teaching does not mean we should have physical interactions where it becomes impossible. We are working at the level of our universities to promote alternative modes; we could do alternative attendance, we could do segmented sessions in addition to the elements that I talked about.”

NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

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