COVID-19: Why we are against reopening of varsities —ASUU

•Our campus is safe for reopening —FUNAAB VC

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

President of ASUU, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, warned the government against the January 18 set for the resumption of schools, arguing that Nigerian universities were not ready to reopen in the middle of a 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 (PTF) on COVID-19.

Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, however, said on Monday that the 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 insisted that what ASUU is doing is in the interest of the system and the country. He said ASUU has not said anywhere that its members were not ready to resume, stressing that what the union was asking the government 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.

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

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, which 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 my colleagues also have their children at home.

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

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.

Kicking against the stand of ASUU, Vice-Chancellor, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Professor Felix Salako, said the institution is safe for reopening for academic activities, despite the spike in COVID-19 cases.

While addressing journalists on Tuesday, he said the institution had put in place all the stipulated COVID-19 protocols ahead of the resumption. Salako, flanked by other principal staff members of the ivory tower, explained that the senate committee of the school had, at an exhaustive meeting held last week, ratified that academic activities should be conducted virtually and physically for the students.

The vice-chancellor, who was reacting to a statement credited to the Chairman, ASUU, FUNAAB branch, Dr Adebayo Oni, that the school was not prepared for reopening, enumerated various steps taken so far by the management to ensure students and staff safety as regards the pandemic.

Salako noted that the institution, including hostels, had been fumigated and decontaminated for more than 10 times since the outbreak of the virus in the country last year.

To counter ASUU claims, Professor Salako submitted that the university is ready to receive students for both online and physical lectures by ensuring that students adhere to COVID-19 protocols.

He added that the management had been producing its own hand sanitisers as well as the procurement of hand-washing basins and soaps.

He took newsmen on a tour to completed and rehabilitated buildings that had been equipped with latest technological gadgets to aid virtual teaching and learning and insisted that the institution is more than ready to commence academic activities.

Salako added that the buildings also have equipped laboratories, auditoriums, lecture theatres, classrooms with each being 50-seated, 100-seated, 200-seated capacity as well as newly constructed and renovated administrative offices and hostels. He added that about 150 solar panels had been installed in some of the buildings to provide alternative sources of electricity and aid the planned hybrid system of academic activities.

He lamented that students are tired of staying at home, promising that the management would do everything possible to cover the academic gap caused by the closure of the campus.


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