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COVID-19: FG ordered not to reopen schools until 2021

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ASUU President says any attempt to reopen schools now amounts to experimenting with the lives of Nigerian pupils.

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Due to the rise in coronavirus cases in Nigeria, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has advised the Federal Government not to experiment with the lives of Nigerian students by allowing them to sit for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination earlier scheduled to begin in August.

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The union said it supports the government’s earlier decision to stop the SSS3 students from writing 2020 WASSCE, saying schools should be shut down until 2021 ‘to safeguard the lives of Nigerian children and safeguard the health of all Nigerians.’

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Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, Minister of State for Education, had recently said the government would consult with the four other countries under the West Africa Examination Council to set a new date for 2020 WASSCE.

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But Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, ASUU president in an interview with The Punch, advised the government against taking such chances unless parents would be told to sign an undertaking.

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He said, “Look, Kenya has said they have closed all their schools till next year (2021); they too have exams to write. Safety first. If it means closing the schools until next year to safeguard the lives of Nigerian children and safeguard the health of all Nigerians, so be it.

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“So, if that will help us to address cases that can lead to increase in mortality, I think Nigerians should go that way and all of us should see reason for it. If they need to cancel admission for the year, it is good for them. Life matters first, people must have life first before they can go to university. Are the universities ready to work now?

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“Our position is that they should not experiment with the lives of our children. Nobody can tell; the situation may soon normalise and they can do their exams and there is another opportunity for external candidates around November. So, it’s not as if the door is totally closed”.

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Ogunyemi said any attempt to reopen schools now amounts to experimenting with the lives of Nigerian pupils. He, however, added that pupils may return to their schools only if the government could meet all the conditions necessary for school reopening.

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“The first thing that should be tackled is whether schools are safe. And if the schools are not safe, why do you want to carry out an experiment with the lives of our children? An attempt to send back the children to school at a time there is a spike in COVID-19 cases in Nigeria is like experimenting with the lives of our children.

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“If they put all the things in place, including social and physical distancing, sanitisers, kitting the children as we see in other places, decontamination with water flowing in the schools and all the gadgets, why not? So, if government can meet all these conditions, then they can reopen the schools. But if they cannot meet all these conditions, they should not experiment with even 10 students in any school.”

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Meanwhile, the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools has announced its readiness for school reopening, adding that measures have been put in place to curtail the spread of COVID-19.

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