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Asuu,VCs, NANs differ on varsities resumption

By Bisi Olominu

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The outbreak of coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria in March 2019 put a sudden end to 2019/2020 academic season in all universities in Nigeria. The students who were just preparing for their examinations and those just resuming for the academic session were all affected as they hurriedly embarked on journeys to their various homes.
Education in Nigeria was at a standstill as the pandemic coupled with the strike action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, ravaged the land. The strike festered as the federal government and the union could not reach a compromise.
For nine months, the strike lingered and it was finally resolved late December last year as the federal government promised to give ASUU N70billion to settle outstanding debts and improve on infrastructure in schools across the country.
The joy of the students knew no bound as those who are supposed to have graduated but still battling with examination, projects and those to be mobilized for NYSC want schools to be reopened, so as, to complete their academic. The students are preparing, so also, the parents who have been dazed by the coronavirus pandemic for many months and seeing their wards’ future being jeopardized by incessant strike and COVID-19.
But hardly had some universities announced their resumption dates than controversy trailed the announcement.
Kicking against the resumption is the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, which cried out that universities are unprepared for students resumption as they have not put any COVID-19 protocols in place.
The union speaking through her president, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi disclosed that members of the union are ready to commence teaching in all universities in Nigeria but the governments have not put in place measures to curb the coronavirus pandemic among the students when they resume for new academic session.
The Union said it finds it difficult to return to classes in the middle of a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Our concern is rooted in the safety of our members,” ASUU’s National President, Biodun Ogunyemi, told journalists in Abuja.
“What happens to congested hostels, crowded classrooms? What flexible arrangements are in place? It is a situation of emergency. I’m not sure the Universities can cope,” he said.
When asked if e-learning was an option for universities, the ASUU President said the necessary infrastructure was not in place.
“We are aware that some universities are putting measures in place, with alternative learning models,” he said, adding “some are even trying blended classes, virtual and physical.
“But these efforts are limited. They get to a point they can’t go further.
“People are saying start virtual classes, but more than 60 percent of our students will run into trouble – they can’t afford data or smartphones.”
ASUU had on Wednesday December 23, 2020 called off its ten-month-old industrial action.
But ASUU president was countered by the universities Vice Chancellors who said that everything has been put in place for students resumption having stayed at home for long.
One of the VCs of a federal university in the South-West said that it was wrong for ASUU to claim that there were no guidelines for reopening varsities.
Apart from the prevalent second wave of COVID-19, another VC said some of them (VCs) had planned to stagger resumption.
“I think ASUU should begin to speak to facts. Inasmuch as we do not want the COVID-19 outbreak on our campuses, we had our plans. Some academic activities can resume for classes with a few populations,” one of the VCs said
“LASU recently held examinations for students in compliance with COVID-19 guidelines, and it went well. What do they mean by saying there is no guideline for reopening?” another VC queried.
On his part, VC of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Prof. Felix Salako, said the institution would resume academic activities on January 18, in compliance with the directives of the Federal Government.
Salako added that the university was ready to resume academic activities, saying that measures had been put in place, including COVID-19 protocols as stipulated by the Federal Government.
He said further that it was mischievous and political for any lecturer to go to the media to say that the university was not ready for academic activities.
Salako noted that the school had undergone fumigation more than 10 times since March 2020, just as there had been massive infrastructural rehabilitation.
He also said the university would be running what he described as “hybrid” teaching, a mix of physical and virtual learning, while no fewer than 150 solar panels had been installed in some of the buildings, to provide alternative sources of electricity and facilitate the planned hybrid system of learning delivery.
“The virtual learning will take care of large classes, like the part one students, but for fewer classes, we have large halls to accommodate the students”, he maintained.
Meanwhile, the University of Ilorin has started online lectures as scheduled.
The management of the University of Benin also announced that the institution would resume on January 30.
The Senate of Ekiti State University had also announced that the institution would resume online academic activities from January 18.
Deputy Director, Corporate Communications and Protocol of the Federal University of Technology, Akure , Mr Adegbenro Adebayo, said academic activities will resume on January 18 for its students.
The Public Relations Officer of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Biodun Olarewaju, said the Senate of the institution would meet on January 19 to decide when students of the university would resume.
Subject to the decision of the Senate, the spokesperson said OAU would put in place all necessary arrangements in compliance with COVID-19 protocols to ensure safety in the university environment.
However, ASUU of Obafemi Awolowo University had on Sunday cried out that the institution was not ready for safe reopening.
ASUU said although its members were ready to start work, the government had not put measures in place for safe reopening of the schools.
The Senate of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko in a press released made available to journalists and signed by the acting Registrar of the institution, Mr.Opeoluwa Akinfemiwa had also said that students of the institution will resume on Monday, January 18, 2021.
The Senate at its emergency meeting held on Tuesday, January 12, instructed the students to resume to continue the abrupted first semester academic session
” Senate in the course of deliberation observed: That the Examination for the First Semester of the 2019/2020 Academic Session ought to have commenced on the 8th March 2020 but could not as a result of the lock down engendered by the COVID-19 Pandemic.
” Senate consequently decided as follows:That students would resume on the 18th January, 2021.That Examinations for First Semester 2019/2020 Academic Session would hold for four (4) weeks to allow for social distancing in the examination venues.
”That 300 to 500 level students would have their Examinations during the First two (2) weeks of the Examination period that is from 24th January to 6th February, 2021.
” The 100 and 200 levels students would have their Examinations during the last two (2) weeks of the Examinations that is 7th to 20th February, 2021.
”Senate also directed that all students must comply with the underlisted COVID-19 protocols as follows: Wearing of nose masks in all parts of the campus that is lecture rooms, Examination Halls, Hostels, the Library and Relaxation Centres; Maintenance of social distance; Washing of hands at the entrance to the University, Lecture Halls, Examination Venues, and the Library; Use of hand Sanitizers at the various entrances to the University as well as Lecture Halls; that the current policies of no mask no entry, no mask no service would be strictly enforced while use of nose masks by the students would be enforced on campus. Meanwhile, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has opposed the attempt by the Federal Government to postpone the resumption of schools nationwide against January 18, 2021, earlier announced.
NANS President, Comrade Sunday Asefon, in a statement last Tuesday in Abuja, urged the Federal Government not to further aggravate issues by keeping Nigerian children at home aimlessly.
He, however, commended the consistent efforts of the Federal Government in galvanizing the entire country to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and in doing everything to access vaccines for Nigerians.
Asefon, said instead of postponing the resumption of schools, it has become imperative to address the alarming spread of COVID-19 and rising cases of deaths from a position of environmental strategy and human coordination since the lockdown mechanism could no longer be a mitigating option in the face of the economic reality.
He added that the Federal Government must quickly come to a place of understanding that the majority of Nigerians are living in unorganized environments and structures that are not helping to curb the spread of the virus.
He said: “As students representatives and stakeholders, we make bold to state that having students and lecturers on campuses and in schools that are regimented and regulated, will help to raise consciousness and the bar of compliance with COVID rules.
“Consequently, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) is undertaking to prevail on students union bodies to set up Students Task Force Against COVID-19 in every school, while asking the Federal Government to rejig its basic COVID guide for school resumptions.
”School resumption will also help the students, teachers, and lecturers to avoid social gatherings, regular travels while concentrating on the task of teaching and researching, which can also help to trigger the need to have a new alternative and approach to fighting the pandemic
“While COVID-19 is a global pandemic being addressed across different climes, the time has come for us in Nigeria to address this virus based on our peculiarities and limitations.
“We are open to a dialogue with the federal government should there be a need for cross-fertilization of our ideas and logical arguments,”

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