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COVID-19: It’s Dangerous To Reopen Varsities Now, ASUU Warns

Branches of the Academic Staff Union of Universities on Sunday assessed COVID-19 protocols in the universities and said the institutions were not ready for safe reopening.

In separate interviews with The PUNCH, the chapters of the union commented on the directive of the National Universities Commission that universities could resume on January 18, but must adhere to COVID-19 protocols in hostels and lecture halls.

ASUU said although its members were ready to start work, the government had not put measures in place for the safe reopening of the schools.

ASUU’s concern came amid coronavirus cases and deaths, which rose to 99,063 and 1,350 respectively on Saturday.

The union Chairman at the Obafemi Awolowo, University, Osun State, Dr Adeola Egbedokun, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said classroom and hostel situations in universities did not in any way conform with COVID-19 protocols.

Egbedokun further said no preparations had been made so far for the universities’ safe re-opening and urged parents to insist on safety before re-opening.

He said, “COVID-19 is very real and this second wave is as real as described. We cannot afford to toy with our health and our dear students’ health in the name of resumption, which is politically motivated.

“There are no preparations for safe re-opening of the universities and I think parents must insist on safe re-opening. The current classroom and hostel configurations in our universities do not in any way conform with the PTF (Presidential Task Force) on COVID-19 protocols. There is no way universities can achieve that. I have said this elsewhere, that rather than for the government to have addressed the obvious deficits in the public universities during the lockdown and strike, they were playing to the gallery.”

But the OAU spokesperson, Abiodun Olanrewaju, said the university management was ready for the resumption and had put in place “a lot in relation to the COVID-19 protocols” in a bid to ensure safety.

ASUU at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta said the university was not ready to cope with COVID-19 challenges.

The Chairman of ASUU-FUNAAB, Dr Adebayo Oni, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Sunday, stated, “The lectures halls are overcrowded. As of today, in my campus, I have not seen any facility for hand washing Who is to provide sanitisers? Do you expect lecturers to provide sanitisers for themselves?

“Fumigation of the environment from time to time should be done. How do you cope with students’ surge and the challenge of power supply?”

Oni said the union had observed that conducting physical lectures with students would be more disastrous.

He said, “It is a threat to the resumption of academic activities.

“The fact is that under this circumstance and looking at the threat of the figure, going physical with students would be more disastrous. Conducting physical sessions, physical lectures with students would be more disastrous.

“The truth of the matter is that we now propose a mixed model of online teaching and probably some level of physical instructions.

“Even online teaching also comes with its facilities which are not readily available.

“We don’t want to be pessimistic to say that it is not workable. However, it will be at the risk of our lives and our students’ lives if the government’s required facilities are not provided.

“The truth is that the facilities to cope with the pandemic are not available in our institutions. It appears the government is not ready and our institutions are not helpful.”

The Chairman of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University branch of ASUU, Dr Musa Babayo, in a text message sent to our one of our correspondents, said that the government and institutions did not show any sign of seriousness in handling COVID-19 issues when the union was on strike.

About Editor

Otunba Sayo Akintola is a 1992 graduate of Linguistics from the University of Ibadan, Oyo State. He holds a post-graduate diploma in Financial Management and MBA from Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi. He started his 12-year sojourn in journalism at the Nigerian Tribune in 1993 as Business and Economy reporter. He rose through the ranks to become the Group Business Editor of the nation’s oldest surviving private national newspaper, the Nigerian Tribune. He set up World Street Journal magazine in 2018.

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