So What If Schools Resume On September 22?, By Ife Akano
On August 26, 2014, the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, through its Minister for Education, Ibrahim Shekarau, directed all schools not to resume until October 13, 2014; an order stemming from the fear of the dreaded Ebola virus disease (EVD). Many Nigerians acknowledged this decision as a sign of preemptiveness of the Federal Government in containing the spread of the ravaging virus. They saw it as a sign that the FG actually does care about the welfare of the younger generation of this nation.
Poignantly, one thing we failed to remember amidst our elation about the news was the fact that the FG will always remain the FG. We forgot its typical nature is that of falsehood and indecisiveness backboned with implausible whys and wherefores. And many Nigerians got their hearts broken for that when they were thumped with the news of the FG’s reversion of the proposed resumption date to September 22, 2014. The declaration of this reversal was made on September 5, 2014, barely a week after the initial declaration. We really do have a good government; a government that can make solid and stern decisions for its citizens!
Nonetheless, the raison d’être of this article is not to blast or censure our darling FG. Hence, if you are looking forward to seeing a barrage of ravenous and indicting attacks on the Presidency and the FG as whole, I suggest you make a u-turn right this instant and stop reading this article! I’m afraid you’ll end up being utterly disappointed! On the contrary, I’ll be addressing this sticking point from a different vista.
Since the FG’s declaration of the reversal, all hell has been let loose. Adrenaline levels have been shot up by the news of the reversal. Umpteen individuals and stakeholders in the education sector have voiced out against the decision; one they perceive to be unimaginably doggone and inane. Different labour unions in the sector have not been left out. The National Union of Teachers (NUT) are not taking the news lightly; they are, in point of fact, palpably cheerleading a revolt against the FG’s decision, instigating its members to flout the directive of the FG. Other unions like the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) have also come out to express their discontent at the directive. Even the parents and pupils/students themselves are reluctant to accept the FG’s directive with a bulk of them considering not complying with it. At first, I decided to play voyeur as regards the issue; I saw it a conventional Nigerian precautionary reaction. “It’s nothing, the hullaballoo would die out in no time”, so I thought to myself. I was outrightly mistaken! As it stands, the FG is unusually maintaining its pronouncement while the unions with the parents and their wards are bent on flouting the FG’s new directive.
The phobia of the unions and the parents as regards the new resumption date is quite understandable. I mean, who in Nigeria isn’t scared of the dreaded ebola virus? The whole country has been tossed into an ambience of nosophobia. I won’t even wish my enemy contracts the virus (because that would mean the virus would spread more), let alone my own child. But, I believe that its only extreme situations that should warrant extreme measures. I would want to accentuate at this juncture that ebola virus spread is yet to reach an extreme or pandemic level. At least, it has not yet been declared so. Applying an extreme approach such as delaying resumption of schools for almost four weeks (that’s almost a month!), all in the name of being prophylactic, is rather unnecessary. I deem the postponement of resumption for primary and secondary schools in the country as nothing but a mere nostrum.
Our pupils and students have stayed idle at home since July! As we all know, the idle hand is the devil’s workshop. We should not allow the culture of incessant interruption and paralysis of academic activities that has been inculcated into tertiary institutions to creep into the lower levels of education. We should not be clamouring for the postponement of the resumption date. Rather, now is the time for us to step up our orientation of these young ones.
Come to think of it! There is yet to be any recorded case of a child casualty of the disease in Nigeria. This goes to show that our children can remain safe from the malady if they are properly taken care of and well-monitored. Rather than screaming at the top of our voices, advocating that these leaders of tomorrow remain idle at home, we should begin to orientate our children on how to comport themselves when amidst their peers. School managements should ensure that sanitizers, hand-washing soaps or liquid and other cleaning materials are on ground for all pupils and students. Parents can even procure personal cleaning kits for their wards. Teaching and non-teaching staffs of the various primary and secondary schools should be cautioned to be more at alert than before.
We shouldn’t be advocating for an alteration to the academic calendar of these schools; an alteration that will ultimately result into non-completion of the syllabus meant to be covered by the pupils and students. On the contrary, we should be mandating all schools to upgrade their medical facilities. Many schools cannot even boast of a complete first-aid box, let alone a sick bay. Those are the issues we should be tackling rather than mounting pressure for a postponement of resumption. Besides, what is the assurance that the virus won’t persist beyond October or even till the end of the year? I suppose that if the disease persists for the next one year, our children would remain idle at home for that very one year. Laughable indeed! In the interest of of our leaders of tomorrow, let us all cast sentiment aside and focus our attention on more momentous matters that would be instrumental in preventing the disease from spreading to our young ones.
To round off this piece, let me reiterate my standpoint which is that a postponement of the new resumption date is highly unneeded. Locking up our pupils and students at home for an extra three weeks or more could end doing more harm than good for them. With the proviso that schools ensure their pupils and students maintain proper hygiene and are provided with necessary cleaning material, I see no reason why they can’t return back to school on September 22. Let us not add more fuel to the fire by wasting a whooping three weeks of their academic life. Let our children return back to school!
Ife Akano is an undergraduate of the University of Ilorin. He is a freelance writer and a campus journalist. You can reach him on “07063877999” or through email@example.com
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