Gentlemen and ladies, friends, patriots, and global observers, the debate of whether or not to reopen schools has been in vogue, taking pace, and generating a high level of concern at various levels. This is as a result of the danger posed by the global pandemic, COVID-19.
Facing the reality before us, the Nigerian students at all levels have been at home for over four months due to the shut down of schools. For this reason, the National Association of Students of English and Literary Studies (NASELS) Southwest Region as an association that represents thousands of her members and stakeholders in national development wishes to make a position, convey our stand, and to adjust the circumstances and realities of the moment.
It is an obvious fact that the global pandemic has claimed many lives; and in the same vein, it has posed threat and hindered the progress of academic and economic activities in Nigeria. Consequent upon this, On Sunday, July 19 2020, the Regional Director of NASELS Southwest led an intellectual debate and conversation with the executive cabinet members of the 8th Council, to review the situation, and make a substantial position on the unresolved debate.
NASELS Southwest region has come to the painstaking submission and conclusion to supports the reopening of schools. The association understands and shares the reality of risk this position pose to Nigerian students and the general public, but after considering all trajectories before us, and in the spirit of moving forward, the association is left with no option but to support the reopening of schools.
The Regional Director is quoted, “Considering many of our submissions on the subject, many of us, even those against reopening of schools, acknowledge a need for its reopening in a way or the other. Yet, expressing fear to the posing risk. Yet, we must move forward and tackle this head-on.
Here is the reality. I (we) must make decisions every day that we hope are just. We don’t (mayn’t) know right from wrong all the time. We wish we did. But what we can’t be is indecisive.
It is common sense to take a method and try it, and if it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”
Following this, the association reached a resolution and position after a fierce but intellectual debate of the executive cabinet members; and hereby make a statement supporting the reopening of schools with very careful and assertive reservations, which goes thus:
First off, preventive measures must be made available in schools. The safety palliatives and precautions such as wearing of face masks, use of hand sanitizers, social distancing, etc, announced and put in place at the onset of the pandemic must be provided for students in schools.
By implication, this must be stated explicit and be given full attention and adherence; for we understand that since constituted authorities (management) of schools can make it compulsory for all students to pay their school fees, track and effect its obedience, they should equally be able to hold the adherence of COVID-19 preventive measures of such significance. If this could be done, the possibility of maintaining an academic environment void of the virus is achievable.
In addition, isolation centres must be in school, should there be need (in case of emergeny). It must be made compulsory for all tertiary institutions in the country. There should be a dedicated building to serve as isolation centre. It will limit the spread of the virus, if at all, there is a positive case. Government should work with institution authorities in this regard.
Moreover, NASELS Southwest Region share and solidarise with Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). Similarly, we urge Union leadership to open table for consensus with the federal government. We are aware of the demand and struggle of ASSU on IPPIS with the federal government, which had earlier sent university students home. We are also urging the Federal Government of Nigeria to be sincere and considerate in their negotiating grounds with the Staff Union, and ensure that they arrive at an harmonious ground in the process. Also, the federal government must be proactive in resolving the issue amicably because its outcome count on the progress of students and academic activities (after schools might have been decided to be reopened).
NASELS Southwest however consider and propose gradual resumption of schools in a bid to enforce social distancing in academic classrooms and environments. Thus, rather than having all students resume once, schools can easily embark on batch-by-batch resumption (especially with a start of the final year students who are on verge of graduating), – where students of the same class, category or level are in school at a particular time; and others could resume strategically afterwards. This is basically to ease population influx and to ensure some level of compliance to social distancing in all contexts.
Additionally, the association suggests that government should speedily consider some virtual applications and means that could ease learning. The COVID-19 era has opened the eyes of many into how beneficial and easing the online space is, where many activities are achievable at the comfort of one’s home. Government should give serious consideration to this suggestion so that students may not necessarily appear in class at all times.
In furtherance, we suggest that academic activities should be restricted from its usual hours. Due to the prevalent risks of COVID-19 in Nigeria, hours of students lectures and classes can be altered and limited to other time suitable (at the discretion of universities management). It is not by compulsion to have academic activities in its preexisting form; the situation has changed; similarly academic activities can change some specificity to suit the circumstances and new development.
Moving forward, we know there are potential risks involved, yet, we must live by it in the spirit of moving forward. It is crystal clear that many other activities in the country are actively ongoing, regardless of the presence of the virus, though the number of cases keep increasing. However, we need to adapt to the current situation and abide by the rules and regulations to curb the wings of the virus; thereby coping with the situation and progressing in all spheres.
The association believes that many other ideal, rational and configurable stands that move along with the process can be considered and enforced. There are other possible ways to solve the controversy. We, thereby, oblige with the federal government to carry out actions as regards the reopening of schools.
NASELS Southwest Region supports and call for reopening of schools, considered the highlighted measures and conditions are put into practical compliance. We believe it is for the betterment and collective good of students, teachers, parents, government and the country at large.
Thank you. God bless NASELS!
Regional Director, NASELS Southwest Region.
Adeyemi, Shukroh Feranmi,
Chief Press Secretary,
Office of the Regional Director.