Nigeria

COVID-19: ‘Low public perception, compliance hampering school reopening’

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Abuja: 25th June, 2020

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has identified poor public perception and compliance to health protocol on prevention of COVID-19 spread as the major reason responsible for government’s reluctance to open schools.

Head of the NCDC’s Risk Communication, Dr Yahya Disu said this on Thursday 25th June, 2020 during a webinar hosted by Plan International Nigeria’s Country Director, Hussaini Abdu with support from the European Union. The theme was: Rethinking Education: Perspective and Challenges of Remote and Alternative Learning in COVID-19 Pandemic.

He said: “the risk perception by the public is still very low and it’s because our population structure consists mostly of youth who may have the disease and not have symptoms. Re-opening schools will further spread the disease. If there is good level of compliance, then we could consider school reopening.”

According to the NCDC daily update, Nigeria now has more than 22, 000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 cases with fatalities above 500.

Dr Disu further explained that because the Nigerian health system was weak, opening up schools coupled with the onset of the wet season which comes along with increase in flu-like diseases, children would run the risk of contracting and spreading the COVID-19 disease.

“School children are likely not going to comply and it could spread the disease among them as majority of our pupils go to school in vehicles and the transport sector is known to have poor record of compliance.”

On the use of alternative learning platforms for students, the panellists of eight emphasized the need for government to invest in online and digital channels for learning to take place for the country’s teaming young population. Prof. Mabel Evwierhoma of the University of Abuja urged government to take a cue from some private higher institutions of learning by investing in blended or mixed learning to surmount the COVID-19 pandemic.

She called for the deployment of campus radios to support remote Learning in higher institutions adding that “The online channels of instructions need to be deployed keeping in mind the safety of students and teachers. And for those parents willing to allow their wards resume, it should be allowed and for those who are not, alternative should be developed for them.”

In his submission, Dr Murtala Adogi Mohammed called on state governments to carry out a study of how they have fared in the last three months in remote learning with a view to establish if the system was working or not just as he lamented the exclusion of learners in remote communities.

“We need to know if we need to expand radio reach or internet. Scenarios should be plotted. There should be a response plan from each state for the federal government to coordinate. Some teachers are not technologically savvy. The government need to re-budget for education as its being done for health.”

“Distant learning is not really inclusive,” said Dr. Anna Madziga who is currently the Deputy Chief of Party on a USAID/FHI 360 Project. “There are many unreached that we need to reach. Education cannot wait and we need to ensure that every child access education.”

Mr. Andrew Mamedu, head of Business Development, ActionAid Nigeria listed the cost implications of remote learning including increased financial burden on the care givers in providing electricity, phone or computers and data. He also raised concerns about rise in poverty amongst teachers who are adversely affected by the changing context.

“Private schools have stopped paying teachers, it increases poverty in the long run. Sources of livelihood for the teacher is therefore cut off. Budget submitted to the national assembly show a cut in education. We should rather look for ways to get more money into education,” Mamedu said.

He further urged the government to invest in alternative learning methods for people living with disability as well as coming up with policies that are inclusive.

Note to Editor

About Plan International

Plan International is an independent development and humanitarian non-profit organisation that advances children’s rights and equality for girls. We support children’s rights from birth until they reach adulthood, and enable children to prepare for – and respond to – crises and adversity. We believe in the power and potential of every child, but know this is often suppressed by poverty, violence, exclusion and discrimination.

Working together with children, young people, supporters and partners, we strive for a just world, tackling the root causes of the challenges girls and vulnerable children face. We have been building powerful partnerships for children for over 80 years and are now active in more than 70 countries, driving changes in practice and policy at local, national and global levels using our reach, experience and knowledge. Plan International is registered in Nigeria with the Corporate Affairs Commission.

Contact information:
Yunus Abdulhamid–Communications Advisor
No 49, Anthony Enahoro Street
Utako District, Abuja, Nigeria
Email: Yunus.Abdulhamid@plan-international.org