The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) are at loggerheads over the January 18 Schools resumption date.
While the PTF has said that the January 18, 2021, resumption date for schools across the country has not changed, ASUU has cautioned the Federal Government against the hasty reopening of universities in the face of rising cases of COVID-19 and concerns about the safety of the lecturers.
January 18 Schools Resumption Stays For Now ― PTF
Speaking in a television programme on Tuesday night, the PTF National Coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, said the date remains the same until the Federal Ministry of Education determines otherwise.
His clarification followed the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu’s remark on Monday, which had indicated that the January 18 date for resumption of schools in the country would be reviewed because of the rising cases of COVID-19 In the country.
Aliyu said: “What the minister said yesterday was that they were going to review, he didn’t say that they were going to change the date.
“He said they will review the situation and let the nation know. So, for the moment, it is still 18th January until the ministry of education comes back either with an alternative date or reconfirm that.”
COVID-19: Why We Are Against Reopening Of Varsities —ASUU
Meanwhile ASUU President, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, warned the government against the January 18 set for the resumption of schools, arguing that Nigerian universities were not ready to reopen in the middle of a pandemic.
Ogunyemi, who spoke on Sunrise Daily programme on Tuesday, expressed fears about the death of many university workers as a result of COVID-19 complications, saying a situation where “lecturers are dying like chicken” calls for concern.
The National Universities Commission (NUC) had earlier directed universities to resume academic activities on January 18, in line with the tentative date announced by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.
Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, however, said on Monday that the date was not sacrosanct and that it was being reviewed by the Ministry.
Ogunyemi asked the Federal Government to review the decision, as more COVID-19 cases continue to be reported across the country.
He insisted that what ASUU is doing is in the interest of the system and the country. He said ASUU has not said anywhere that its members were not ready to resume, stressing that what the union was asking the government to do before resumption was to put necessary facilities in place, in conformity with COVID-19 protocols, to prevent the spread of the virus on campuses.
He recalled that some weeks ago, NUC requested universities to submit what they required to open. The universities sent their “reports to them and now, to what extent has NUC addressed the request from Universities?”
He said: “We have the right to be worried as it affects the welfare of our members. The welfare of our members should be paramount in the operation, which is what is missing here. Let people not misunderstand us. We also face the same challenge, two of my children are at home and many of my colleagues also have their children at home.
“Our concern is rooted in the safety of our members. What happens to congested hostels and crowded classrooms? What flexible arrangements are in place? It is a situation of emergency. I’m not sure the Universities can cope.”
On e-learning, ASUU president said it was unfortunate that about 60 per cent of students do not have Android devices or smartphones, while noting that infrastructures should be provided to support learning management system.
“We are aware that some universities are putting measures in place with alternative learning models. Some are even trying blended classes, virtual and physical. But these efforts are limited. They get to a point they can’t go further.
“ASUU has been talking about revitalisation since 2012. These are some of the areas where the assistance would have helped. Universities need huge funds to do this.
“People are saying start virtual classes, but more than 60 per cent of our students will run into trouble, they can’t afford data or smartphones,” he said.
Ogunyemi, however, reassured the students that ASUU members are fully ready and prepared to teach.