Resuming back to school after three months at home was a dream come true for SS3 students in Ogun State but the first week was marred by the controversial COVID-19 test levy and private schools chasing students for outstanding fees.
The state, where the index case of COVID-19 in Nigeria was discovered, announced that SS3 students should resume on Tuesday.
This was in compliance with the federal government’s decision to reopen schools for the West Africa Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE) scheduled to commence on August 17.
However, to observe the level of compliance with the safety protocols and the response of students, PREMIUM TIMES visited some of the secondary schools during school hours last week.
Due to the urgency of the terminal examination, it was expected that students would resume fully in all schools but that was not the case.
When our reporter visited Victorroti Private School on Wednesday, only a few of the SS3 students had resumed.
The teacher who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES, Sulaimon Olabulo, said none of the boarding students have resumed because of the controversy surrounding the mandatory COVID-19 test.
Recall that the test, which was eventually reversed as one of the conditions for resumption, stirred controversies amongst private school parents who were told to pay the sum of N25, 000 per child at the testing centres.
The governor reversed the condition on Monday evening considering the lack of capacity to test 5,840 boarding students in the state. He also ordered that parents who have paid should get a refund.
This, according to Mr Olabulo, posed a challenge for some of the parents, particularly those staying outside the state.
“Some of the parents didn’t get the information until Tuesday morning. They were calling us to know the situation of things. That’s one of the factors for the late resumption.”
Also, Omotayo Jaiyesimi, the Principal of Golden Heart College and David Oyeniyi of Lisabi College shared similar experiences.
Speaking with our reporter on Friday, Mr Jaiyesimi stated that although the measures for resumption were put in place before Tuesday, the majority of the SS3 students in the schools have not resumed.
“Many of the students will resume next week,” he told our reporter.
More so, some of the private schools visited denied defaulters of tuition fees access to class while some were sent back home.
Many of them stated that they had warned students who are yet to pay the tuition of the third term from resuming.
In fact, Redeemers’ High school, Mowe, in its message to parents, noted that “all outstanding fees must be cleared before resumption as defaulters would not be allowed into the school premises.”
Nevertheless, some secondary schools are yet to reopen because their resumption is yet to be approved.
The gates of Firm foundation and Omoyele Academy, two schools situated in Sagamu, were shut when our reporter visited.
When contacted, the proprietress of Omoyele Academy, Mary Omoyele, informed PREMIUM TIMES that the ministry of education is yet to approve the resumption of its SS3 students but refused to disclose the reason.
Speaking with this paper, the Special Assistant to the Governor on public communication, Remmy Hazzan, explained those yet to be approved have not met the basic requirements of water provision or other necessary facilities for safety protocols.
“We cannot risk the lives of the pupils. Some of those schools have not met the criteria. The availability of water for hand washing and other necessary things. By next week they should resume,” Mr Hazzan said.
Many of the schools visited complied with the COVID-19 safety protocols such as social distancing, mandatory use of face masks, provisions for hand washing.
At Lantoro High school, Abeokuta; Lisabi College, Sagamu high school, Victorroti Private school, Abeokuta Grammar School, students were made to sit in twos on the benches.
All the schools had basins placed at different locations to enable washing of hands.
It was also observed that students in public schools donned the uniformed face masks distributed by the school authorities.
During break periods, the students are restricted from playing around within the school premises, our reporter observed.
Meanwhile, of all schools visited, only Makun High school provided an infrared thermometer at the entrance to carry out temperature checks on visitors and students.
None of the public school principals granted an interview when approached by our reporter quizzing them on the unavailability of the infrared thermometers.
Reacting to this, the government’s spokesperson expressed shock, noting that the public schools had been provided with necessary apparatuses.
Despite the fair rate of compliance, some parents and guardians who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES expressed worry over the safety of students and their success in the forthcoming examination.
A retired nurse, Khadijat Aliyu, said she hopes the resumption does not degenerate into a crisis, citing the rising cases of the pandemic in Nigeria.
As of the time of filing this report, Nigeria had recorded over 45,000 infections.
“I have no problem with the resumption, but can our schools really comply with the guidelines? Because I am afraid. We cannot judge with the observation of the first week. The lives of our children is at risk.”
Another parent, Olusola Gbenga, said he was not in support of the resumption because it was ill-conceived and may affect the students’ performance in the examination.
In his words,”the students will be rushed to write the exams after staying at home for more than three months. Even some people who attended classes during our own time struggled to get credits in the five required subjects.”
For Adisa Adedeji, a taxi driver in Abeokuta metropolis, the teachers and government have a role to play because the students cannot be treated like adults.
“The teachers have to be with them at all times. You know children cannot stop being childish. They get carried away easily. The government should also go around to monitor if the teachers are doing what is right,” Mr Adedeji told PREMIUM TIMES.
Reacting to this, the President of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools in the state, Lawrence Holumidey, said the teachers have been trained and that parents should allay all fears.
“All School teachers have been trained before the school resumed. And it is not a case that all students have resumed. It is just a class. They can make use of other vacant classrooms and facilities if need be.”
In preparation for the terminal examination, Mr Holumidey, refused to comment on the likely impact on the results. He, however, noted that school owners are ensuring that adequate preparations are made in spite of the limited time.
“We cannot pre-empt their performance. No one has ever witnessed this kind of situation before now. We can only do our best within the short time frame and expect success.”
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