In the midst of the second wave of COVID-19, universities and other tertiary institutions resumed after months of closure.
Authorities have tried to meet up with health protocols to ensure safety, but staff and students find it difficult to comply with some of the protocols. Daily Trust on Sunday visited some of the schools and now reports.
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In Nigeria, public universities were closed for 10 months following the long strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The long battle between the federal government and ASUU to resolve demands by the nunion to improve facilities on campuses, enhance welfare of students, revitalise the universities as agreed with the government years back, rescind decisions on the use of the Integrated Personnel and Payroll System (IPPIS) and to pay the backlog of earned allowances stretching over seven years, was suspended after another agreement was reached.
With the new agreement and temporary suspension of the strike, the National Universities Commission (NUC), on January 8, directed schools to resume union January 18, 2021.
The directive, which was signed by the commission’s Deputy Executive Secretary (Administration), Chris Maiyaki, on behalf of the Executive Secretary, Professor Abubakar Rasheed, stated that the resumption date was in accordance with the directive of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.
Maiyaki urged universities to safeguard lives by strictly adhering to the safety protocols communicated to various institutions through NUC’s circulars.
However, some universities, like the Kaduna State University (KASU) and others in Anambra, Bayelsa etc were yet to resume as at the time of filing this report.
Checks by Daily Trust on the level of implementation of the COVID-19 protocols and how students are complying showed that a lot has been put on ground by the management of various institutions, but students still flaunt some of them.
A Theatre Arts student of the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Catherine Chetawomelo Stephen, who is excited to be back to school, said COVID-19 protocols like wearing facemask, checking temperature and social distancing were observed strictly from the school gate and students were complying.
She said, “You cannot go in without a mask; and they will check your temperature before you are allowed into the school premises.”
She also said they observed social distancing in the class, especially as they are not many in their department and some students are yet to resume.
“Lectures have commenced and we are not many in my class, so there is social distancing. But I don’t know of departments like Mass Communication and Public Relations where there are many students,” she said.
In the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, our correspondent observed that many students and members of staff were not really observing the COVID-19 protocols.
Although the school has not resumed, many workers, business owners, students and residents were seen moving around the campus.
Many students who had completed their examinations and waiting for clearance and mobilisation for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme were on campus.
Daily Trust observed many of the students indiscriminately hugging each other while others were holding hands.
At the time our correspondent visited the university, the hand-washing machine mounted at the main entrance to the institution did not have water, while many gained entrance into the campus without facemasks.
It was further observed that there was no gadget to check the temperature of people coming into the campus, even though there was a security man encouraging people to use their facemasks.
In the lecture halls and departments, there was no provision for hand-washing, while sitting arrangements for students did not change; hence there’s no space for social distancing.
A student of Statistics who simply identified himself as Samson said, “Since we have not resumed, nobody will take those things seriously. We are resuming on February 20, and until then, nothing is happening. Many of the people you are seeing on campus have completed their examinations and are waiting for clearance and mobilisation for the NYSC.
This thing is not peculiar to the University of Ibadan. It is a general problem in Nigeria. We don’t take COVID-19 seriously, and it is a serious problem.’’
In Cross River State, authorities of the University of Calabar (UNICAL), Cross River State University of Technology (CRUTECH) and a privately-owned Arthur Jarvis University emphasized COVID-19 protocols on their campuses by placing drums of water with tap, alongside alcohol-based sanitisers. These could be seen at the main security gate of the major offices and lecture halls, as well as the building accommodating the vice chancellor, which has many offices.
Students of the University of Calabar formally resumed lectures on 25 January 25, 2021 while those of CRUTECH and Jarvis had resumed earlier.
The new vice-chancellor of the university, Prof Florence Obi, said they had emphasized the importance of wearing facemasks to their students, adding that they would ensure total compliance.
A student of the university, Alero Simeon said, “I believe COVID-19 is very real. We have watched on the television, listened to news on radio and read the massive campaign to inform people about how the virus is ravaging the entire world. So I have to comply with protocols. I am sure that other students on campus will comply.’’
However, in spite of the caution by the authorities, many students of the three tertiary institutions have not bothered to protect themselves by complying with the guidelines.
Fabian Akpan, a second year student of CRUTECH, simply said, “Something must kill a man one day.’’
Daily Trust gathered that the Lagos State University (LASU) did not go on break or strike and has been running its programmes in a staggered manner without hitches in spite of COVID-19.
It was also observed that the necessary COVID-19 guidelines, such as use of infrared thermometers to check temperatures, wash hand basins, soap and water at all entry points, as well as sanitizers, had been put in place before now and are being enforced.
The university also enforces the use of facemasks as many students were seen wearing theirs.
Also, in the University of Lagos (UNILAG), safety protocols have been put in place while it resumed online lectures on January 25, 2021 for the first semester, 2019/2020 academic session.
It would be recalled that cases of COVID-19 had been reported among some senior staff of the university.
The chairman, UNILAG chapter of ASUU, Comrade Dele Ashiru, told our correspondent that given the population of students in the school, the level of compliance to COVID-19 protocols was not adequate to bring them back for physical classes.
Part of the safety measures is that regular students would undergo a quick ratio test while new intakes would do a COVID-19 test. They would be isolated in a room, one room to a person for about five days. If they show no symptoms and the tests are negative, they would be paired, but if positive, they would be isolated, it was gathered from one of the students.
Also, soap, wash hand basins, and sanitiser dispensers were at strategic points around the school while students were mandated to use facemasks when in a group and maintain a distance of two meters.
For Yaba College of Technology in Lagos, the management has resorted to online teaching with immediate effect, following the death of the Director of Academic Planning Unit (APU), M. A.O Omoighe. He passed on in the early hours of last Sunday due to COVID-19 complications.
In Kano, Daily Trust observed relative compliance with COVID -19 protocols in most of the higher institutions visited.
At Bayero University, Kano, students were given sanitisers and forced to put on facemasks at the main gate.
However, visitors entering in cars were made to put on their facemasks without being sanitised.
In the Faculty of Education, our correspondent observed security personnel taking temperatures of students entering on foot, but not those coming in cars.
It was learnt that the school engaged special enforcement marshals to enforce COVID-19 protocols on campus.
In a lecture hall, our correspondent observed that no social distancing was being observed. Most students were seen with facemasks but they clustered to take lectures.
The absence of public address systems at some of the lecture halls also contributed to the clustering as students had to come to the front to get what their tutors were saying.
At the Federal College of Education (FCE), Kano, hand-washing equipment were placed, but students ignored them. There’s no enforcement by officials as well.
However, students are sometimes forced by lecturers to wear their facemasks before entering lecture halls. Social distancing was equally not observed in lecture halls despite measures taken by the school authority to create spaces between students.
At the state-owned Sa’adatu Rimi College of Education, students who are now writing exams are fully observing social distancing, not because of COVID-19 but normal exam processes that allow students to sit apart.
Furthermore, Daily Trust observed that most students of the Kaduna Polytechnic were made to wear facemasks before they were allowed into the school premises. A security man at the entrance also conducted temperature checks on students.
Inside the school, students moved around with their facemasks; only few were seen wearing theirs on their chins.
It was also learnt that the school management also introduced a task force to enforce COVID-19 protocols and fine violators.
It was observed that students maintained social distancing inside the examination hall.
Mohammed Bello, a student of the polytechnic, said they abided by the protocols, especially within the school premises.
At the Kaduna State University (KASU), academic activities were yet to commence, so the school was deserted when our correspondent visited.
It was, however, learnt that as part of measures to reopen the school, management has commenced testing members of staff for COVID -19.
At the Umaru Musa Yar’adua University, Katsina, it was observed that authorities of the institution had taken some measures to ensure compliance with safety protocols as set out by health authorities.
Our correspondent observed that everyone had to wear a mask before gaining entrance into the university.
There were hand-washing facilities at the gate, but it was not fully complied with. Only some people washed their hands while others did not, especially those in vehicles.
Our correspondent equally observed that inside the school, provision was made for hand-washing facilities and sanitisers at strategic locations, particularly around the lecture halls.
Some students who spoke to our correspondent said COVID-19 protocols were observed in most cases.
Aminu Shehu, a 200-level student said, “Honestly, we try as much as we can to observe the rules. You can’t enter the school without a facemask; and it is the same thing in the lecture halls.”
Another student, Muhammad Habib said, “We observe social distancing in the lecture halls as some seats are marked to enforce that.”
On his part, Salisu Rabiu, a 300-level student, who was seen holding his facemask in his hand said, “Honestly, I find it really uncomfortable to wear it all the time, but in the lecture hall I wear it because I will not be allowed to sit without it.”
However, our correspondent observed that outside the lecture halls, students didn’t comply with the protocols, particularly social distancing. But the Vice-Chancellor (Academics) of Deputy the institution, Dr Hamisu Musa, said a COVID-19 protocols observance committee was put in place to ensure enforcement.
The situation is similar at the Al-Qalam University, where temperature of staff, students and visitors are taken before they are allowed entry. Also, hand-washing facilities were provided at different locations.
The institution has also provided an isolation centre, equipped with protective equipment and ventilators in case of any positive case.
Similarly, students were seen wearing facemasks in the Federal University, Dutsinma (FUDMA), but compliance with social distancing is a challenge in all the campuses visited.
Some universities in Rivers State have adopted several measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.
To demonstrate its readiness to tackle any eventuality of spike in infections, the University of Port Harcourt, on Wednesday, unveiled one of its 400-per-day capacity molecular laboratories dedicated to COVID-19 testing for undergraduates and staff.
The university also unveiled two of its COVID-19 holding centres with seven new ventilators and oxygen bottles, rolling out its stipulated safety protocols and compliance enforcement measures in tandem with best practices.
Speaking to reporters shortly after unveiling the facilities, the acting Vice Chancellor of the university, Professor Stephen Okodudu, said the school achieved the feat after deliberate and rigorous consultations between the management and its COVID-19 steering committee, which consist of professionals.
Okodudu said hand-washing facilities had been strategically installed across the various campuses of the institution for members of staff and students. He added that hostels had been fumigated and crowding strongly prohibited.
“As you may have noticed, we have hand-washing basins at strategic locations around the campus, hostels and classrooms. The idea is for students and staff to constantly wash their hands for at least 20 seconds under running water as that is one of the most effective ways of fighting coronavirus.
“Our hostels are fumigated; and we have a timeline drawn out to fumigate our classrooms. We have taken a decision that all staff and students in the campus must put on their facemasks at all times as it is globally recommended. And everyone must have his or her temperature taken with our infrared thermometers at all the major entrances and buildings,’’ he said.
In the Rivers State University, our correspondent learnt that the school authority has put in place, various stands in strategic locations of the campuses, where students and members of staff can wash their hands.
By Chidimma C. Okeke (Abuja), Jeremiah Oke (Ibadan), Habibu Umar Aminu (Kano), Mohammed Ibrahim Yaba (Kaduna), Tijjani Ibrahim (Katsina), Christiana T. Alabi (Lagos), Victor Edozie (Port Harcourt) & Eyo Charles (Calabar)