Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), has kicked against the reopening of schools by the federal government.
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Monday, announced that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved that students in graduating classes should return to school to prepare for their examinations.
Ogunyemi, who spoke in Ota, Ogun State, after the announcement, said the federal government need to address the challenges in the education sector, before it can talk of reopening schools.
He urged the government to provide ideal environment and take the lead, by meeting the conditions issued out by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) before reopening schools.
“The federal government must lead and show the ways by meeting the conditions for reopening of schools before any school can be allowed to open, because COVID-19 pandemic is a health challenge.
“When it comes to public health, it is something that should not be left in the hands of individual, but the Federal Government must take the lead”, he said.
The ASUU president listed the conditions given by the NCDC to include: provision of materials for regular washing of hands, face mask, isolation centres, space for social distancing and provision of hand sanitisers.
Ogunyemi noted that many of the schools do not have financial capacities to meet these conditions and requirements for reopening of schools.
“It is suicidal to reopen schools now, if the federal government itself could not meet the conditions spelt out by NCDC and World Health Organisation (WHO).
“The nation will expose the innocent children to risks which is avoidable,” he also said.
Ogunyemi stated that many schools will not be able to afford to provide hand sanitiser for students, adding that many do not even have running water, not to talk of facility for hand washing.
He also said many schools do not have enough spaces to promote physical distancing.
The ASUU president pointed out that putting all these requirements needed to reopen schools in the country together will run into millions of naira, which most schools do not have.
Ogunyemi appealed to the federal government to provide the running funds for principals and head teachers in secondary and primary schools, so that they can provide some of these facilities in their schools.