COVID-19: How Nigerian govt is allegedly prioritizing workers safety, economy above children’s health

The Chief Judge of Osun State, Justice Adepele Ojo, at the weekend ordered the shutting down of all the courtrooms in the state over fears of the new wave of COVID-19.

DAILY POST had reported that Justice Ojo gave the order barely 24 hours after five cases of the deadly B117 strain of COVID-19 was detected in the state.

She ordered all workers from grade level 12 and below in the state judiciary to work from home.

The order by the Osun chief judge is coming a week after the state government directed civil servants from grade level 12 and below to work remotely from home.

Also, in Lagos State, the state government on Sunday evening extended the work from home order giving civil servants from grade 14 and below to February 26.

The state’s Head of Service, Hakeem Muri-Okunola, who announced this in a statement, said the state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu gave the order based on pockets of COVID-19 cases among public servants in the state.

Other states in the country and the Federal Government have given a similar order, just as many private establishments have similar rules in place, as one of the measures to safeguard their staff from the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.

Are school children the expendables?

Analysts are, however, curious that governments, especially at the state level, who are careful enough to ask workers to stay at home, elected to ask schools to reopen! They say they are no doubt privy to the brickbat the issue of reopening of schools generated early last month, with the Minister of Education overruling himself under the space of 24 hours.

The minister had told Nigerians that the January 18th date chosen for schools to reopen was no longer sacrosanct based on the realities on ground, only to recant the following day that the date stands. Some analysts who spoke to DAILY POST said that now that the children are back to school, they remain at the mercies of a ravaging and deadly pandemic.

Sources at a meeting convened by the Federal Ministry of Education with commissioners of education from all the 36 states, revealed that 27 out of 36 states actually arm twisted the federal government into agreeing to reopen schools.

But government critics have questioned why a government that asked its workers to stay at home, insisted on children to resume school and be exposed to dangers posed by possible infection?

For many parents in Nigeria, the action is nothing but hypocrisy and double standard. Many suspect a hidden motive by state governments in collusion with school proprietors. A few have, however, aligned with government’s position on the matter.

Crowded classes, carefree students

Reports across the country suggest that the much flaunted COVID-19 protocols schools are supposed to enforce are treated with levity, further lending credence to arguments that schools shouldn’t have been reopened at this time when the number of positive cases are rising and more deaths are recorded on daily basis. According to James Anthony, a parent, ” Government seems to be confused on the matter of students’ safety.”

Similarly, the gross lack of infrastructure in Nigerian schools, especially public ones at all levels is of great concern to many health experts. Mr Jeffery Odoh said, ”Classes are crowded in most public schools, with students who are carefree mingling at will and disregarding the need for physical distancing. This is not good for a country.”

This reporter witnessed such a situation in a private school owned by a prominent Christian denomination on the outskirts of Lagos, where more than half of the students and teachers seen were without face/nose masks and students were busy playing at will.

The above scenario, unfortunately, is the case in most schools that have reopened!

Except for the University of Lagos that has concluded plans to reopen fully by conducting lectures online, and the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, with staggered arrangements, where final year students of some faculties are to report on campus and others attend classes virtually, it is yet to be seen what arrangements other tertiary institutions have in place.

A Time Bomb

Experts are of the view that with the recent happenings, Nigeria may be sitting on a COVID-19 time bomb with the reopening of schools nationwide.

The first indication was the infection of some medical students at the Lagos State University College of Medicine hostel, leading to the shutting down of the hostel.

Also, the Yaba College of Technology was last week shut down after a director in the school died of COVID-19.

Latest report has it that about six people have so far tested positive at the institution.

Nigeria authorities are, however, unperturbed by these developments to have a rethink on the reopening of schools, neither are they allowing the implications dawn on them.

The Hand of Esau and the Voice of Jacob

Unconfirmed reports say the decision to reopen schools is more on the side of the economy than it is for the educational welfare of Nigerian students.

Fingers, though still unconfirmed, point at private school owners, who were said to have pressured state governments to insist on reopening of schools so as to guide against financial losses.

It is, however, yet to be seen how wise it is to keep parents at home only to send their children to school to import the virus their parents are hiding from.

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