Apprehension was the word used to describe the mood of parents and teachers over Covid-19 variations in Ondo state, just as schools resume for the second term. BARNABAS OLABISI reports.
As schools reopened for the new year, the fear of how to protect the students and pupils against COVID-19 and its related scourge was of the uttermost concern to parents, guardians and teachers.
It was expected that both public, private school owners and government put modalities in place to ensure the safety of students, teachers and non teaching staff against the pandemic, given the recently reported variants.
Despite warnings from epidemiologists and the World Health Organisation (WHO) that taking of vaccines, use of masks and regular hand washing with sanitizer, among others, work well for preventing COVID-19 pandemic outbreaks in schools, investigation revealed that most students would go to their schools without any of those masks and in most cases do not even obey non pharmaceutical regulation.
Reports from some school proprietors and government teachers on measures put in place to keep the learners safe in schools however revealed that it yeilded some positive steps.
A school owner, Mr Ibukun Victor, explained that the best way for schools to avoid COVID-19 spread is to ensure that students and teachers wash their hands frequently, sanitize and put on nose mask.
He disclosed that there were many pressing needs to prevent COVID-19 transmission in Nigerian schools, just as he called on stakeholders in the education sector to join hands in the fight against the deadly scourge.“Since pupils are not being vaccinated against COVID-19, it behooves on the schools managements to protect them while in school and ensure their safety. One of the best ways to achieve this is to compel all teaching and non teaching staff to be vaccinated and use their nose masks while in school.
“Moreso, there is need to encourage our students to wash their hands regularly while teachers supervise younger children to be sure that they wash their hands thoroughly. Parents also should go for the vaccines and ensure that their children come to school with their nose masks.”
Another school proprietor, Mrs Blessings Olamiposi explained that they had sensitized students to always use their nose masks in the school compound while at the same time ensuring that they monitor them for compliance.
She noted that, “We all know that COVID-19 is caused by a virus that spreads through droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Due to this, we have made the use of nose masks a rule for every student. Peradventure they are not with it and want to sneeze or cough, they are also aware that they should do it into their elbows.
“On the part of the school management, we have carried out thorough clearing and cleaning of the school compound. We also disinfected objects and surfaces a week to resumption. This would be a frequent exercise.
Aside this, the school management since 2020 had resolved to hold its yearly Parents Teachers Association (PTA) meeting through the school’s WhatsApp page to prevent physical contact. We have a running tap where students can wash their hands with soap.
“If you own a school or you are a teacher in any educational institution, you should know that safety rules are essential and should be implemented. We don’t joke with anything that has to do with the health and safety of our students. Once they enter the school compound, we are responsible for their well- being and we are not lagging behind in this regard. Everything that can be provided to ensure their safety is in place,” she added.
A school principal, Chief Bankole Ojo, told Blueprint that his school authority, during the holiday, fumigated the school compound and disinfected touched objects and surfaces. This, according to him, would go a long way to protect the learners from infection.
“Another decision taken by the school management this new year is to limit the number of visitors to the school. Parents are to drop their children at the school gate and ensure that each child comes to school with alcohol based hand sanitizer and nose mask after washing their hands at the school entrance. We also ensure a distance of two metres, as recommended by WHO, among students. In addition to this, the school management has reduced the time for long break to checkmate the students, while teachers on duty would monitor them.”
In the submission of a public school teacher who simply gave her name as Mrs Aderike, she said that since the outbreak of coronavirus, the state government had made the use of nose masks for both students and staff in government schools across the state compulsory and everyone had adhered to it.
According to her, “Hardly would you see a public school student or teacher within the school premises without a nose mask, because the state government made it compulsory for all state workers, to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Another step taken is to check students’ temperature before entering the school compound.
“If any students temperature is high, the school would invite his/her parents to take the student home. Public schools also made available washing hands bowls, soap and hand sanitizers within the school where students can easily wash their hands as many times as possible. These are the steps we are taking to guarantee students safety,” he added.
In a similar vein, officials of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) arrived Ondo state capital to execute a project on Antigen Rapid Diagnostic Testing(Ag RDT) on the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.
The delegation during an advocacy visit to the state commissioner for health, Dr Banji Awolowo Ajaka in his office assured the team of government’s unflinching support while highlighting the several efforts of the Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN-led administration in tackling the spread pandemic of COVID-19 in the state.
The commissioner expressed optimism that complementing the ongoing efforts on vaccination with testing will undoubtedly make the pandemic a thing of the past.
Speaking at the meeting of members of the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) for COVID-19 in the state, leader of the team, Mr Celestine Ameh called for collaborations and synergy of efforts, stressing that the eight states in the country including Ondo have been selected for the project.
Ameh averred that the World Health Organisation (WHO) workstream prioritised active, exhaustive case finding and immediate testing, adding that Nigeria has keyed into the strategy of scale up on testing on COVID-19.According to him, the main objective of the project is to increase COVID-19 testing capacities towards preventing local outbreaks.
The director, Disease Control and Immunisation, Ondo State Primary Health Care Agency (OSPHCA), Dr Victor Adefesoye explained that the state is ready to collaborate with NCDC as the project would impact positively on residents of the state.
Adefesoye stressed the need to complement the ongoing vaccination against COVID-19 with testing in order to achieve better outcomes.He averred that the new strategy would undoubtedly ensure a high coverage of testing for the disease.
The director, epidemiology and disease control, Ministry of Health, Dr Stephen Fagbemi noted that the project is the second phase of intervention projects the state would get as the World Health Organisation(WHO) had earlier supported the state.
Fagbemi described the state’s positivity level as going higher in the new year saying the situation is an indication that there is the need to scale up efforts in testing.
The state epidemiologist disclosed that the proposed COVID-19 testing strategies of the state include the establishment of mobile RDT testing sites, strengthening and scaling up of facility RDT sites and establishment of community testing sites.
While parents and wards were of the opinion that with all the government efforts and action, there are indications that the spread of the pandemic will be at a very low level in the state.