COVID-19 spike: Anxiety over schools’ resumption



There is anxiety over resumption of schools across Nigeria, with some changing the initial date in the wake of the second wave of COVID-19 spike.

The National Universities Commission (NUC) recently announced January 18 date for the resumption of all universities.

FG counters self

The announcement followed the decision of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 which in December, slated January 18 as resumption date for schools across the country.

But at the PTF briefing Monday, Minister of Education Adamu Adamu said the date was not sacrosanct in view of the rising cases of the pandemic.

“It (January 18th date of school reopening) is not sacrosanct. When we decided on that date it was just a target towards what we were working on.

“Of course, we are keeping it in view and looking at what is happening in the society and then it is supposed to be subject to constant review. Even today at the PTF meeting we looked at the rising figures and thought about if we should probably take another look at it.

“On January 18th resumption, we are reviewing it, we are going to review it… tomorrow the Ministry is going to take it up,” the minister was reported to have said.

The counter directives are creating anxiety among stakeholders, most of whom were of the view that there’s need for government to streamline its position and make same known to members of the public.

And flowing from that, authorities of the various institutions and some state governments have either taken decision to resume or not to, depending on their perception and readiness for take-off of academic activities in their schools.

For instance, the authorities of the University of Ilorin and that of Ekiti State University Tuesday commenced online lectures, even as the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB), said  academic activities would take off  in the institution January 18.

In similar vein, the Bauchi state government is set to open schools January 18, with the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria postponing its resumption date to January 25.

FUNAAB

Announcing the school’s position Tuesday at a media parley in Abeokuta, Ogun state, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Felix Salako said the January date remains in compliance with the federal government’s earlier directive.

His position came after the institution’s chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Adebayo Oni, said the university was not ready to cope with the challenges posed by COVID-19.

In Oni’s view,  conducting physical lectures with students would be disastrous, a position the national leadership of  the union ASUU had  also canvassed.

VC counters

Countering the position, however,  Professor Salako  said  the university was quite ready to resume full activities as measures had been put in place, including COVID-19 protocols as stipulated by the federal government.

He described as mischief and political for any lecturer to tell the media that the university was not ready for academic activities, saying, “It was a personal decision of the lecturer to think that the school could not resume full academic activities.”

Salako disclosed that the school had undergone fumigation more than 10 times since March 2020, just as there was massive infrastructural rehabilitation.

The FUNAAB’s helmsman further said  the management had been producing its own hand sanitisers, as well as procuring hand-washing basins and soaps needed to keep the students and members of staff safe from contracting the virus.

Salako also said the university would be running what he called “hybrid” teaching, a mix of physical and virtual learning, while no fewer than 150 solar panels had been installed in some of the buildings to provide alternative sources of electricity and facilitate the planned hybrid system of learning delivery.

“The virtual learning will take care of large classes, like the part one students, but for fewer classes, we have large halls to accommodate the students”, he said.

On the issue of pending admission of new students, Salako said they had two sets but would only admit the first set to resume September.

While taking reporters on tour of some of the newly completed and rehabilitated buildings equipped with latest technological gadgets to aid virtual teaching and learning, the VC maintained the institution was ready to commence academic activities.

Also speaking, the students’ union president, Abiodun Oloyede, who passed a vote of confidence on the VC, commended the management for putting in place everything to ensure a smooth academic session.

But Oloyede expressed worry to the effect that not all the students would be able to access the virtual learning component, either as a result of  network challenge or their locations.

Bauchi

Similarly, the Bauchi state government has said schools would reopen on 18th January 2021 as earlier announced.

 The state Commissioner of Education, Dr Aliyu Tilde, who stated this in a statement, Tuesday, said not a single case of COVID-19 infection was reported in schools across the state. 

He therefore said regardless of any review that may take place in some quarters, the state government  would go ahead to reopen schools in the state January 18 as decided by the State Executive Council.

Tilde said: “The 2020/2021 school calendar starts that day. Unless we stand resolute on our school plan for the year, the session will be mutilated by fear of Covid-19 as was 2019/2020.

 “Parents, teachers, students and other stakeholders to please take note.”

The commissioner assured that safety protocols such as use of face masks, social distancing, sanitation and testing in schools would be strictly imposed.

ABU shifts date 

 And rising from its 501 (special) meeting held  Tuesday, the authorities of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria,  approved January 25 as resumption date of the varsity.

The position was made known in a statement by the institution’s director of public affairs, Mallam Awwal Umar, a copy of which was made available to Blueprint in Zaria.

The statement said the approval by the Senate, the highest decision making body of the institution, was subjected to further directives by both federal and Kaduna state governments.

It  further said  the reopening which  would be in 2 phases, would have 100 level, 200 level and postgraduate students resuming first, while the postgraduate students would be handled virtually by online support.

 The rest students are to resume in the  second phase.

Obiano postpones resumption

 Also, reports from Awka, the Anambra state capital, said Governor Willie Obiano has postponed resumption of schools in the state earlier slated for January 18.

Obiano, in a special broadcast, disseminated through the social media Tuesday, also shut down night clubs.

He urged hotels, churches and markets to ensure strict compliance to WHO safety COVID-19 protocol, warning that no one should step out of his/her home without wearing nose masks.

The governor said: “Today, we are faced with a clear and present danger. Between December 7, 2020 and January 11, 2021, we have recorded 110 new cases of Covid-19 in Anambra State. That is why we have revved up our testing capacity and brought the total number of tests done to 13, 412 tests so far.

 “All government offices must observe the standard Covid-19 protocols – washing of hands at the entrance, wearing of facemasks, regular use of hand sanitizers and strict observance of social distancing. Nobody will be allowed into any government premises without properly wearing a face mask.

 “No one should step outside their homes without wearing a facemask. The ban on nightclubs is still firmly in place. Hotels are directed to ensure strict compliance to Covid-19 protocols. There should not be more than 50 people in any public gathering.

 “All markets in Anambra State are given one week to set up the necessary safety standards and ensure proper compliance. Any market found violating the standards after one week shall be quickly shut down. 

 “Transport operators are advised to revert to all the practices that helped us during the first wave of the pandemic. They must ensure social distancing inside the vehicles and maintain a passenger manifest. Schools are advised to revive the Covid-19 structure and practices that helped protect our children during the first wave of the pandemic.

 “Schools in Anambra state shall not re-open on January 18, 2021 as earlier scheduled. Rather, schools will re-open after two weeks from today to enable the principals and teachers prepare for the return of our children. Churches and other religious organizations are advised to set up Action Teams and go back to the practices that helped us in the first phase of the pandemic.”  

Ebonyi  deploys nurses

In a related development, the the Ebonyi government announced plan to deploy two nurses to each public school ahead of  the January 18 resumption date  to stem the second wave of  the pandemic.

Chairman of the state chapter of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Mr Francis Elechi, disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)  Tuesday in Abakaliki.

This is in continuation of engaging the services of the nurses in public schools, as was done during the first wave of the pandemic.

Elechi said the nurses would continue to assist the teachers trained on preventive measures against the coronavirus disease, and to identify any student with the symptoms.

On the readiness of teachers to help in containing the virus in schools, the NUT boss said the teachers “are fully in support of the state government’s plans to ensure safe environment ahead of resumption.

“We commend the move by the state government to provide protective facilities for primary and secondary schools in the 13 local government areas ahead of resumption on Jan. 18.

“The school resumption date in the state is in line with the federal government directive.”

“Hand washing facilities and sanitisers were distributed during the first wave and it is going to continue as school resume on Jan. 18. The teachers are ready to return to class.

“We urge the parents to assist us and get facemasks for their kids. We do not want a situation that will endanger the lives of school children. The state government also wants safe environment while the children are learning,” Elechi said.

Osinbajo briefed

Meanwhile, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has welcomed efforts by a team of Nigerian professors and scientists investigating the effectiveness and roles of Ivermectin drug in the treatment of coronavirus disease.

The team, made up of  Nigerian scholars at home and abroad, also submitted their report on the usefulness of the drug to the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has already appointed a peer review expert from the United Kingdom to study the proposal.

The team, called IVERCOVID Research Group, was led by Femi Babalola, an ophthalmologist and surgeon who is the principal investigator, and Chris Bode who is the Chief Medical Director of LUTH.

Others are Chairman of the Medical Advisory Council(CMAC) at LUTH, Lanre Adeyemo; a US-based Clinical Pharmacologist, Adesuyi Ajayi; two project virologists: S.A Omilabu and Olumuyiwa Salu; and also the Project Coordinator, Felix Alakaloko.

The team lauded the Buhari Presidency for encouraging the research and thanked Osinbajo for his personal role, interest and support.

Speaking Tuesday at the briefing, Vice President Osinbajo expressed delight that  Nigeria and Nigerians “are at the cutting edge of scientific research into the COVID-19 treatment.

“We have an opportunity here and I am so fascinated to hear this drug has been used in the treatment of River Blindness in this country.”

The VP, who commended the team’s efforts said with the report, “Nigeria is at an advantage both in knowledge and availability of the drug, especially since Ivermectin has been found useful not only in the treatment of COVID-19, but also as a prophylactic medication.”

Osinbajo assured the federal government would  explore other  ways of supporting  the research for the benefit of Nigerians and humanity generally, even as he underscored the effective funding of scientific research in the country.

The report is titled, “A randomised controlled trial for the repurposing of Ivermectin in the management of COVID-19,” and highlights are discussed below:

The research, carried out in the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) was undertaken following the report of a 5,000-fold reduction in viral load by Australian workers with in-vitro use of Ivermectin on COVID-19 in culture.

The PI has worked extensively with Ivermectin on the Onchocerciasis-River Blindness control programme, through which many Nigerians have used Ivermectin.

The study revealed that the mechanism of action of Ivermectin, include “Inhibiting viral entry into cells nucleus; and “Direct suppression of viral RNA load of SARS CoV 2,” among others.

Ivermectin is orally absorbed with higher absorption as a solution better than tablets, and “The Mean Residence Time” (MRT) is 3.4 days. This informs the suggested frequency of dosing, i.e. twice a week.

The research’s Null hypothesis noted that: “Safe doses of Ivermectin are not useful in the treatment of patients with virology proven COVD-19 disease, does not lower viral load, and does not shorten time to negativity, neither does it cause improvement in clinical parameters when compared to Lopinavir/Ritonavir/Placebo.”

But its Alternative Hypothesis revealed that, “Safe doses of Ivermectin are useful in the treatment of patients with virology proven COVID-19 disease, lowering viral load, shortening time to negativity, and causing improvement in clinical parameters when compared with Lopinavir/Ritonavir/Placebo.”

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