Some students at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, were seen discarding their face masks and ignoring other COVID-19 safety protocols on Wednesday as soon as they passed through a health check at the university campus gate.
A PREMIUM TIMES reporter, who monitored activities on the two campuses of the university, observed poor compliance with COVID-19 safety protocols by the majority of the students.
University of Uyo, like most other universities in Nigeria, has just resumed for the 2019/2020 academic session after about nine months’ nationwide strike by university lecturers.
Students are returning to classes amidst a surge in the number of COVID-19 infections across the country.
At the UNIUYO entrance gate, both at the town campus and its annex, health officials, assisted by security officials, were at hand to run temperature checks and to ensure students wore face masks before they could get inside the campuses.
But as soon as the students successfully passed through the check and were inside the campuses, they pulled off and pocketed their face masks, and then excitedly hugged one another, apparently to welcome themselves back from the long holiday.
Except for one hall – Onyema Ugochukwu Hall – in the town campus where a public lecture on COVID-19 was going on, there was no social distancing in all the lecture halls visited.
Students were seen reading in clusters and were chatting freely, without face masks, inside the lecture halls. There were no lecturers in any of the halls, indicating that lectures were probably yet to commence fully in the school.
“We are starting exams next week, so there won’t be classes till after exams,” said Aniedi Ekanem, a 200 level student in the Department of Education Technology.
“I have mine, I just took it off (because) it was a bit stuffy,” Emmanuel Arinze, a 100 level student of the Department of Fine and Industrial Arts, responded when asked why he did not wear a face mask.
Mr Arinze said he was yet to have lectures since school resumed on Monday.
A lecturer in the Department of Communication Arts, Garvey Ufot, told PREMIUM TIMES he has observed many students on campus were not wearing face masks.
He, however, said he was sure no lecturer would allow any student without a face mask to enter their office.
Lectures yet to begin
Mr Ufot, who said he had classes with his students on Monday, said “non-payment of salaries could be the reason lectures were yet to begin in some of the departments.”
“Who will teach someone’s children when his children are at home without going to school due to fees?
“Lecturers are penniless. Government wants to destroy education, they (government) have not honoured the agreements they signed but they continued to feed the media with lies,” the lecturer said.
PREMIUM TIMES could not immediately reach a spokesperson for the University of Uyo, Blossom Okorie, for her comment, as she did not respond to the phone calls from our reporter.
The total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 cases in Akwa Ibom is 783 as of January 27, according to data from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
Ten deaths from COVID-19 have been recorded in the state, including that of high profile figures like a former military governor of the state, Idongesit Nkanga, and the state chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Udo Ekpenyong.
There are 126,160 COVID-19 cases so far, in Nigeria.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday signed a law prescribing a six month-jail term for Nigerians who flout COVID-19 protocol, including wearing a face mask in public.
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