As the raging Coronavirus pandemic is not showing any sign of abating, a Professor of Educational Guidance and Counselling at the University of Ilorin, Abdulrazak Olayinka Oniye, has said that even though the call by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) to keep educational institutions closed is valid, the opinion of stakeholders in the educational sector which favours the commencement of gradual opening of the educational sector is weightier.
Prof. Oniye, who is also the Chairman of the Association of Model Islamic Schools (AMIS) in Kwara State said this last Tuesday (July 28, 2020) while speaking on ‘Table Talk’, a weekly current affairs programme on Unilorin 89.3 FM. He said that if the 2019/2020 academic session is totally lost to the pandemic, the Nigerian educational sector may not recover over the next five years.
The don pointed out that while it is true that the health infrastructure in Nigeria is stretched, and there is need to prevent further health crisis and total collapse of health facilities on account of Coronavirus, the education sector faces a grave danger if schools remain shut.
Prof. Oniye, who is also the Director of the University’s Counselling Unit, explained further that had the Federal Government not decided to allow students who are due to exit the junior and senior secondary schools to write their final examinations, the Nigerian educational sector will lag behind that of the other members of the West African Examinations Council and the infrastructure of the educational sector which is currently inadequate will come under further pressure.
He also noted that government’s decision is always informed by the security report at its disposal, saying that the decision to allow the students to write their final examinations is also welcomed as sound by the concerned stakeholders because only about 20 percent of students are in the final classes, hence, physical distancing can be easily be ensured .
Prof. Oniye further posited that the examination will provide an experimental environment for reopening of schools, adding that many parents did not pay the second term school fees because the term was not concluded before the lockdown was introduced.
While arguing that “to medical practitioners, the decision to begin opening schools may not be welcomed”, he said that “we should just take our destinies in our hands and we must not lose our guard”.
The don called on the Kwara State Government to give grants or interest free loans to private schools because their staff members had not been paid for more than three months and many are suffering at the moment. He pointed out that private schools are responsible for catering for most of the primary and secondary educational needs in Kwara State, saying that his association has more than 200 members.
Prof. Oniye disclosed that members of his association are ready to resume activities in their schools with strict observance of the COVID 19 protocols. He then pleaded with the state government to assist in disinfecting the schools, saying that hand washing and sanitisation infrastructure are already being installed in some schools.
He also disclosed that the Association has monitoring teams that could work with the state’s Ministry of Education to ensure strict compliance with set protocols. He also cautioned school owners from extorting students with unnecessary demands through the use of face masks.
While speaking on the possibility of reopening higher educational institutions, Prof. Oniye, called on government to resolve all outstanding issues with the University unions so that academic activities would commence in earnest.
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