From Esther Akaa, Lafia
The Nigerian University system has been hit by series of strikes embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). Often times, students spend more years in school than required as their academic calendars are disrupted due to strikes. It is important to note that the 2020 ASUU strike lasted for about 10 months, thus making it the longest ever embarked upon by the Union.
It would be recalled that trouble started on March 23, 2020, in a move by ASUU to protest the non implementation of a memorandum of agreements signed in 2019 between it and the federal government, which led to the industrial action. The strike lingered for about 10 months until December 23, 2020 when the National Executive Council (NEC) of ASUU decided to suspend the strike. The decision to resume academic activities was agreed and some schools have since the 18th of January 2021 resumed for academic activities.
Apart from the strike, there came a novel disease outbreak known as Corona virus (COVID -19), which later became a pandemic having its own devastating effects on all sectors of the economy including education. The country is currently experiencing the Second wave of COVID- 19 Pandemic which is more deadly as government continues to focus attention on the pandemic to avoid further spread of the disease as the number of positive cases continues to rise on a daily basis.
Amid the second wave of COVID-19, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 through its National Coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, during a recent television programme stated that schools in the country should still resume on January 18, 2021 pending when the Ministry of Education makes a contrary announcement. This followed a contrary report on some media platforms that the Federal Government has postponed school resumption from January 18 indefinitely. The directive by the PTF compelled universities across the country to re-open for academic activities but with strict adherence to the COVID-19 protocols as given by the federal government and ministry of health.
In Nasarawa State, there are two Universities: Federal University of Lafia (FuLafia) and the Nasarawa State University, Keffi( NSUK). Despite the directive by the federal government that schools should resume on the 18th of January, FuLafia has slated its resumption on February 8, 2021. According to a statement recently signed by the Registrar of the University, Dr Abubakar Mamuda, full academic activities would commence immediately on resumption.
Dr. Mamuda further stated that the institution has put adequate preventive measures in place to ensure the safety of staff and students as directed by the presidential taskforce on COVID-19. He continued that, “members of the university community, especially the staff and students are to ensure full compliance with the University’s stringent measures on COVID-19 when school re-opens. The use of facemask, regular hand washing or sanitisation and physical distancing are compulsory within the university campus. Therefore, all staff and students are to always come to the university with their facemasks and ensure physical distancing.”
The Voice visited the school and discovered that no student was on campus as the school was under lock and key. However, a visit to NSUK on the other hand revealed that the school has resumed for its academic session since 18th January. It was also observed that adequate measures have been put in place to ensure that both the staff and students as well as the general public observe the COVID-19 protocols to avoid spread of the virus.
An interview with some students at the University showed that, they are ready to comply with the COVID-19 protocols even though, according to them, it will not be easy to cope with the new normal. Victor Kigbu, a student of the University, expressed happiness over the resumption of schools after 10 months of strike, saying that even though the second wave of COVID-19 was ravaging, he was still happy to be back on campus and was ready to observe the COVID-19 protocols set by the school.
According to him, the ASUU strike had devastating effects on students as many could not read their books why at home. “The time we spent at home was not encouraging for students like us. I am sure that some students went on doing something that they were not supposed to do because of the long stay at home. A lot of students didn’t even read their books during the period of stay at home and now that the school has resumed, it will be very difficult for such students to cope. Some students got themselves addicted to social media and reading is very far anyway from them now. So I believe it will be difficult for students to cope in this semester.
“I am happy that the school has finally resumed after long period of time following ASUU strike and the outbreak of COVID-19 Pandemic in the Country.
“I don’t even believe in COVID-I9 because we only see it in broadcast and other media outlets, we only see figures, we don’t see patients and we don’t see them actually exhibiting all the symptoms of COVID-19. We only hear in the news and hear the number increasing. I am not convinced that COVID-19 is real but I am ready to comply with the protocols just to enable me receive my education.
“NSUK is really observing the COVID-19 protocols. Right from the gate, you must wear your facemask before you will be allowed inside the school. Also, when you go to your various departments, you must observe the social distancing order and even in the hostel, you must have at least five facemasks and hand sanitiser,” he said.
He therefore, called on both the government and ASUU to resolve their differences in order to avoid the occurrence of such incident in future as it is detrimental to the educational system.
Also speaking, Precious Okechukwu , a 100 level student said she was ready to adapt to the new normal of the school by observing the COVID-19 protocols as nobody would be allowed into the school premises without his or her facemask. She expressed happiness over the school resumption, saying that the 10 months she spent at home was devastating and tiring.
She said “I don’t believe in COVID-I9 because they have been saying there is COVID-19 but I have not seen anybody close to me that has the virus so that has made me to partially believe in the existence of COVID-I9 but I am ready to comply with the new laid down rules and regulations of the school as it concerns COVID-19.”
On his part, Mohammed Sadiq Agwai , 300 level student in the department of Geology and Mining said he believes in the existence of COVID-I9 because he has seen COVID-19 patients in the hospital and was mindful of all the COVID-19 protocols given by the government.
“I believe in COVID-I9 100%. When I was at home, they told me that they had a first case in Keffi here and that was when I started believing in it. So I believe in it 100% and I have been abiding by the COVID-19 protocols such as wearing of facemask, social distancing order and the likes of it. Although, none of my close relatives or friends has tested positive for the virus but I went to the Federal Medical Centre, Keffi when I was ill and I saw some of the COVID-19 patients there. So, now that the school has resumed and students are returning to school, others have started receiving lectures, our lecturers told us that we must maintain social distancing among other safety protocols. We are also filling a form to ensure that we abide by the COVID-19 protocols and any student found wanting in this area will face sanction,” Agwai said.
Similarly, Muhammad Zainudeen Muhammad, a 300 level student in the faculty of Applied Science , expressed joy over the school resumption , saying the 10 months period of stay at home was long overdue and appealed to government and ASUU to avoid whatever will cause a repeat of such an incident for the growth and development of the country. He said COVID-19 is real and called on the general public to observe the Protocols given by government and the Federal Ministry of Health.
“I do believe in COVID-I9 as you can see, I am here with my facemask. In March last year, they told us about COVID-19 although, at that particular time, I didn’t believe in the disease because they were shutting down countries. They closed down everywhere and we were not seeing anybody with the virus or its signs but around August last year, I heard of a case in Federal Medical Centre here in Keffi and the person was related to me. Infact, we were staying together in the neighborhood. He was infected with COVID-19 and was quarantined at FMC, Keffi. So, I was shocked when I heard about it. So, I believe the virus is real and I go around with my hand sanitiser and I also wear my facemask always to protect myself and others,” Muhammad said.
Anthony Oche, a post graduate student of the university, said COVID-19 has consumed a lot of lives and crippled both economic and social activities across the globe and the disease is real, thus adequate measures must be taken to contain the spread of the virus. “This is an outbreak and researchers have carried out investigations and have come up with facts about the virus. So, many professors and other learned people across the world have come out with reasonable facts with prove beyond reasonable doubt that COVID-19 is real and it kills .That is why the school is observing the COVID-19 protocols. If you move around you will see hand wash basins, hand sanitisers among others placed at very strategic positions within the school premises. This is to help prevent spread of the virus in the school,” Oche concluded.
Meanwhile, the Vice Chancellor (VC) of NSUK, Prof Suleiman Bala Mohammed, in a recent interview with The Voice said the school has taken adequate preventive measures against COVID- 19 as efforts were in place to continuously enforce the protocols in such a way that any staff or student found wanting will be sanctioned. “We are re – opening the school in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic and we have taken adequate measures to ensure that our staff and students, including the general public who may be coming to interact with us are safe from COVID-19. We have taken the non pharmaceutical protocols as provided for by the Federal Government, National Universities Commission (NUC) and the Nasarawa State Government,” the VC said.