It’s unsafe to reopen varsities now, COVID-19 guidelines absent – ASUU

By AdvocateNews on 11/01/2021

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Branches of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on Sunday assessed COVID-19 protocols in the universities and said the institutions were not ready for safe reopening.

The chapters of the union, in separate interviews with The PUNCH, commented on the directive of the  National Universities Commission that universities could resume on January 18, but must adhere to COVID-19 protocols in hostels and lecture halls.

ASUU said although its members  were ready to start work, government had not put measures in place for safe reopening of the schools.

ASUU’s concern came amid coronavirus cases and deaths, which rose to 99,063 and 1,350  respectively on Saturday.

The union Chairman at the Obafemi Awolowo, University, Osun State, Dr Adeola Egbedokun, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said  classroom and hostel situations in universities did not in any way conform with  COVID-19 protocols.

Egbedokun further said no preparations had been made so far for the safe re-opening of the universities and urged parents to insist on safety before re-opening.

He said, “COVID-19 is very real and this second wave is as real as described. We cannot afford to toy with our health and the health of our dear students in the name of resumption, which is politically motivated.

“There are no preparations for safe re-opening of the universities and I think parents must insist on safe re-opening. The current classroom and hostel configurations in our universities do not in any way conform with the PTF (Presidential Task Force) on  COVID-19 protocols. There is no way universities can achieve that. I have said this elsewhere, that rather than for government to have addressed the obvious deficits in the public universities during the lockdown and strike, they were playing to the gallery.”

But the OAU spokesperson, Abiodun Olanrewaju, said the university management was ready for resumption and had put in place “a lot in relation to the COVID-19 protocols” in a bid to ensure safety.

ASUU at the Federal University of Agriculture,  Abeokuta  said the university was not ready to cope with COVID-19 challenges.

The Chairman of ASUU-FUNAAB,  Dr Adebayo Oni, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Sunday,  stated,  “The lectures halls are overcrowded.  As of today, in my own campus,  I have not seen any facility for hand washing  Who is to provide sanitisers? Do you expect lecturers to provide sanitisers for themselves?

“Fumigation of the environment from time to time should be done, How do you cope with students surge and  the challenge of power supply ?”

Oni said the union had observed that conducting physical lectures with students would be more disastrous.

He described   as alarming,  figure  of COVID-19.  He said, “It is definitely  a threat to the resumption of academic activities .

“The fact is that under this circumstance and looking at the threat of  the figure, going physical  with students would be more disastrous.  Conducting physical session, physical lectures  with students would be more disastrous.

“The truth of  the matter is that  we now propose a mixed model of  online teaching and probably  some level of physical teachings .

“Even the online  teaching also comes with  its own  facilities  which are not readily  available .

“We don’t want to be pessimistic to say that it is not going to be workable. However , it is going to be at the risk of  our lives and the lives of our students if the required facilities are not  provided by the government.

“The truth  is that the facilities to cope with the pandemic are not  available in our institutions . It appears the government is not ready and our institutions are not helpful.”

Also,  the Chairman of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University branch of ASUU, Dr Musa Babayo, in a text message sent to our one of our correspondents, said that the government and institutions did not shown any sign of seriousness in handling COVID-19 issues when the union was on strike.

He said that ASUU in the ATBU had yet to see any tangible improvement  in students’ hostel accommodation,  classrooms and others things needed for COVID-19 protocols.

Babayo who said that if the Federal Government had released funds to universities, proper arrangements  for the protocols would have been made by the institutions.

He said, “The coast is now very clear since has ASUU suspended its strike and it has gone further to show how government and institutions are not serious in  the handling  universities, particularly the issues of COVID-19.

“When you talk about ATBU and resumption whether ASUU is satisfied, I can tell you that we have yet to see any tangible improvement, whether in hostel accommodation,  classrooms and other things needed for COVID-19  protocols.”

But the  Public Relations Officer of the university, Bauchi, Abdulkadir Shehu, told one of our correspondents that the resumption of students of the institution had yet to be announced.

He said, “Yesterday (Saturday) fumigation of the  school at both the Yelwa and Gubu campuses commenced and it will soon be concluded.”

The Chairman of ASUU at the University of Jos,  Dr Lazarus Maigoro, said the association was concerned about the second wave of COVID-19.

He, therefore, urged the management of the university to ensure compliance with COVID-19 protocols on resumption.

Maigoro who expressed concern over the second wave of COVID-19, said his members expected  the university authority to comply with the COVID-19 protocols to contain the spread of the disease in the institution.

The Senate of UNIJOS will on Monday (today) hold a meeting to decide whether the institution will reopen for academic activities on January 18, 2021.

The institution’s  Deputy Registrar, Information and Publications,  Abdullahi Abdullahi, disclosed this to one of our correspondents in Jos on Sunday.

Abdullahi said, “We don’t know yet when UNIJOS will resume. The Senate will be meeting tomorrow (Monday) and that is where they will decide when the institution will reopen.”

At the University of Calabar, the union Chairman, Dr John Edor, told The PUNCH that the association would not allow its members  to be exposed to health hazards.

Edor stated,  “As a union, we are not too quick to talk. We are not too fast to become meddlesome. They have said schools are permitted to resume on the 18th of January, 2021. If by then we see that the necessary things are not put in place for the resumption, the union will come up with a position because we are not ready to expose our members to health hazards.

“That was why we went on strike, asking for revitalisation of public universities. Revitalisation simply means conducive theatres, conducive hostels, offices, laboratories and libraries.

“That is why we are saying let us wait till 18th of January and see how prepared Nigerian public universities are in the face of the second wave of COVID-19 which has come up with a more ferocious variant.”

At the University of Port Harcourt, ASUU Chairman, Dr Austen Sado,  said there would be a spike in coronavirus cases.

He stated,  “We have not been invited to inspect any facility in order to determine its suitability. So, we will wait until we get clarification on the resumption, then we will know whether there are things to contend with.”

Asked if he feared a spike ahead of the school resumption, he said he had seen some measures put in place by the university, but that the possibility of an increase in cases existed.

The university had  directed students to resume on January 27, saying appropriate measures had been put in place to check the spread of COVID-19 in the classrooms and hostels.

The Public Relations Officer  of the university, Sammy Kpenu who disclosed this to one of our correspondents on Sunday afternoon, said one of such measures was the purchase of 400 thermometers to check temperatures.

But Registrar of University of Lagos, Mr Oladejo Azeez,  said the  decision on resumption of academic activities would  be taken by the school’s Senate on Wednesday.

Azeez in an interview with The PUNCH,  said the Senate would meet virtually on Wednesday to discuss and decide on the modalities of  students’ resumption and academic activities.

He said, “Irrespective of what the Federal Government has said, the resumption of students or of academic activities is the prerogative of Senate. Senate of the university will decide and the meeting of the Senate is coming up on Wednesday; a virtual meeting. The law places this in the hands of the Senate and until Senate meets, there is no way anybody can say anything on resumption.”

The management of the University of Ibadan said everything would be done to ensure that there was not spike in cases of COVID-19 among students and staff.

The Director of Public Communication of the university, Mr Olatunji Oladejo, said this in an interview with one of our correspondents in Ibadan on Sunday.

But ASUU Chairman at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Dr Abubakar Sabo, said he doubted if   universities in Nigeria could meet the guidelines for preventing COVID-19.

Abubakar, who spoke to one of our correspondents in Sokoto, stated that he was not aware of measures being put in place by the management of the  UDUD towards the resumption date.

“The Federal Government and university authorities must ensure that, there is no spike on our campuses. I have doubt, if our universities can meet up with the standard and best practices to check the pandemic.”

While reacting to this issue of social distancing on campus, chairman,, UNILAG branch, Dr Dele Ashiru, explained that the union had been justified over their agitations for expansion of infrastructure in Universities across the country.

He said, “ASUU has been clamouring for the expansion of infrastructure in the universities. This is a testimony to the justification of our struggles over the years because the situation as it is now leaves more to be desired.”

The Ahmadu Bello University branch of ASUU  said although its members were ready to work,  it had not seen any measure  put in place by the university.

ABU’s ASUU Chairman, Prof. Rabiu Nasiru, told one of our correspondents in Kaduna on Sunday that the lecturers were  prepare to go back to work.

He, however, expressed concern that no adequate measures had so far been taken by the ABU management against the spread of the virus in the institution.

He said, “I haven’t seen any measure taken so far by the management of  ABU, but since the senate of the university is meeting on Tuesday, once Senate meets, I know those  issues will be raised and it will discussed. But for now, I have not seen  any measure taken.” – Punch.

Posted 11/01/2021 07:46:52 AM


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