Uneasy calm: How pupils, students are getting their grooves back after three months

WALE AKINSELURE reports that pupils and students in primary 6 and JSS 3 and SS3 classes in Oyo State are getting used to academic activities again after a three-month lay-off, just as some stakeholders are of the opinion that the resumption came too early.

THOUGH the Federal Government is dithering on the resumption of academic activities in schools across the country, the Oyo State government recently took a bold step and announced that academic activities would resume in schools, with the forerunners being pupils in primary six and secondary school students in JSS3 and SS3 classes, much to the chagrin of some parents over fears of COVID-19.

Thus on Monday July 6, 2020 the students finally resumed classes after about three months at home, their teachers having resumed a week earlier to prepare the ground, especially the school compounds ready for their resumption.

The preparation had included attending sensitization programmes organized by the state government on how to manage their students upon resumption in line with COVID-19 protocols. Training had also been held for zonal inspectors of education, local inspectors of education, principals of secondary schools, select teachers and proprietors of private schools across the state.

Other measures included monitoring of students, provision of hand washing stands at school entrances and at the entrance of each classroom and hand sanitisers. Enforcement of social distancing among students and teachers, including ensuring a maximum of 30 students in each class and compulsory use of face masks were among other measures to be strictly adhered to.

In view of this, various stakeholders raised fears about the vulnerability of the students. The Oyo State House of Assembly in its response to the resumption asked for caution, noting that students may not be able to fully adhere to COVID-19 protocols of social distancing and utmost hygiene and may become vulnerable to the pandemic.

While also speaking to Sunday Tribune, Professor Francis Egbokhare of the Department of Linguistics, University of Ibadan, said the decision should have been delayed further while mass testing should be prioritised. He noted that the testing done so far was not representative of the population of the state while warning that the state may be in for a health crisis.

A parent, Mrs Oyebola Adesola also told Sunday Tribune that though she was glad at the reopening of schools, what was more paramount was for government to monitor schools for compliance to COVID-19 rules.

“I am okay with the reopening of schools provided the basic guidelines are adhered to. The schools could make provisions for sanitisers, washing of hands, social distancing but I am not sure these are on the ground. But if there is a way the schools could go around it, it would be good. COVID-19 is never going to go away completely and we have to devise ways of living around it. Government should ensure that schools comply with guidelines, especially private schools,” Adesola said.

A teacher, Yetunde Olumuyiwa described as improper and hasty the decision of the state government to reopen schools amid rising cases of coronavirus in the state. Olumuyiwa wondered how the state government intended to keep schools safe, stop children from interacting with one another and ensure that teachers themselves were certified safe before interacting with students.

The state chapter of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), through its chairman, Mr Tojuade Adedoyin, said the union was not against reopening as long as the state government could guarantee safe working and learning environment for teachers and pupils.

However, amid these fears and concerns by some stakeholders, the state Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Mr Olasunkanmi Olaleye, during a meeting with parents’ association of some schools asked for their cooperation, assuring that the state had fixed plans to ensure compliance with COVID-19 protocols in schools.

“The government cannot lock down forever and education is an aspect of life that should not be allowed to suffer backwardness.

“I can boldly tell you that with these [preventive] measures in place, the children are safer with us in school than even many homes; imagine situations whereby students are asked to go to private lessons that provide no safety measure. So, they are rather better kept at school than home,” Olaleye said.

Before the resumption, Sunday Tribune had gone round some schools across the state capital to see how things were taking shape for the resumption. At Celestial Church of Christ High School, a bucket-tap of water with hand wash and sanitiser placed on a table were conspicuously positioned for anyone entering the school premises to use. There was a staff meeting going on when Sunday Tribune first got to the school.

After the meeting, our reporter engaged the principal who reminded Sunday Tribune to observe the protocols before getting to her office located close to the school’s gate. The principal who identified herself simply as Mrs. Blessing Ibeneme said the meeting was focused on the resumption and how to be compliant with all the regulations. She added that there were enough classrooms to cater for the 180 JSS 3 and SS 3 students even while observing social distancing.

At Ansar-ud-deen High School I & II, Sunday Tribune met teachers making preparations to welcome back their students. The vice principal, School I, Mr Alade A.A who spoke to our reporter said preparations were on top gear to resume though there were some financial bottlenecks hindering the smooth provision of the necessary things such as the buckets and sanitisers.

Though some of the blocks of classrooms in the school had had their roofing sheets damaged, Mr. Alade said since not all the students were coming in, the situation could be managed.

At IMG Basic Primary School, along Joyce ’B Road, Ibadan, Sunday Tribune noticed pupils were busy in their classrooms having their lessons. A bucket-tap and hand wash point conspicuously placed inside the school premises. A head teacher, Mrs. Adesina expressed satisfaction with what had been put in place in for the ongoing classes and ancouraged parents to allow their children to resume for classes.

However, Sunday Tribune observed that the premises of many of the schools visited were bushy and had not been properly cleared, a mark of the over three months of inactivity at the school compounds.

After resumption, Sunday Tribune also went round to see how both teachers and students were faring. The principal of Orisun Community School, Awotan, Ibadan, Mrs Folashade Akobi, said that the school was doing its best to comply with the guidelines of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

“We have been doing our best to comply with the procedures and also asking the students to do same. Their seats had been arranged with enough gaps as stipulated while they put on their face masks at all times. At the same time, they go out to observe sun-bathing for half an hour. Their periods have been reduced from eight to six so as to ensure total compliance,” she said adding that the turnout of the students has been impressive.

A teacher who wanted to be identified simply as Ayo said the school resumption was unusual while the protocols had made things strange, noting however that there had been strict compliance of stipulated guidelines.

Also speaking to Sunday Tribune, the senior prefect of the school, Olabamiji Ayomide, enthused that he and his mates were glad to resume schooling amidst several changes.

“Every student, I can say, is happy to have returned to school. We got so tired and having classes on WhatsApp did not feel like the usual physical learning. Although we have to cover our noses always and not get too close to one another, I’d prefer that we stay in school.

“Our periods have reduced from eight to six per day and we now close by 1:00pm instead of 2:00pm. When it’s almost midday, we are required to sunbathe. Nevertheless, I’d say that we are already used to it and despite the news that has been flying around, I hope that we can write our final exams soon,” he said.

At African Church Grammar School, Apata, the principal of the senior secondary school, Mrs A.O Akinpelu said since the resumption, “everything has been going on well and the population of the students has been encouraging so far. On the first day of resumption, 60 pupils came to school, and subsequently the number increased. We have been following the guidelines given by the state government; as you can see, we have at the entrance the wash-hand basin. Any student without nose mask won’t be allowed to enter the school premises. The students are sitting in zig-zag format so as to prevent close contact. At 11am to 11:30am, the pupils go out for sun bathing as instructed by the state government. So far so good, everything is going on well.”

The vice principal of Government College Ibadan, said he was not permitted to speak to the media, but said the directives given by the NCDC and state government were being adhered to.

Rachael Kilanko, an SS 3 student of African Church Grammar School, Apata, Ibadan, expressed dissatisfaction over the new method of teaching. According to her, “I feel bad because we no longer share things together; we are prevented from going out to buy something as we have been asked to bring our food from home. We only come out around 11am to 11:30am for sunbathe and we maintain social distancing as well.”


—Additional report by LUCKY UKPERI and ADEOLA OTEMADE.



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