When, last month, the University of Ilorin announced the resumption of academic activities on Jan. 25, it noted that it would be phased to reduce the number of students on the campus.
A combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) had stalled activities in many tertiary institutions since March 2020. The total COVID-19 infections recorded in Nigeria as of Feb.12, 2021, was 144,521.
Now that they are preparing to go back to work, many schools exercise caution to prevent the further spread of the COVID-19.
HumAngle reports on the level of compliance and measures set in place by selected universities to comply with COVID-19 guidelines.
Making the announcement, University of Ilorin spokesperson, Kunle Akogun emphasised that any student who tested positive for the virus would be required to return home to self-isolate while receiving lectures online.
“In case such students miss any examination, make-up examination would be arranged for them. Virtual lectures that commenced on 11th January, 2021 will continue even after physical resumption of classes,” he said.
He added that the school also had handwashing facilities at various strategic places and mandated students to have a minimum of five changeable face masks and pocket sanitisers.
Ayomide Agbaje, a 400 level student of the school, confirmed to HumAngle that passengers who could use the campus shuttle were reduced from 10 to five to ensure adherence to physical distancing regulations.
“When we get to the gate, the security would stop the bus to check each student’s identification card and ensure they are all putting on face masks. The institution operates on no face mask, no entry,” he said.
Early this year, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 gave a guideline that schools, offices, religious institutions, and businesses must adhere strictly to. The procedures include maintaining social distancing, fumigation, and provision of hand washing equipment.
The Task Force also suggested “alternative learning models for safe distancing” like the use of shelter outdoors to protect learners and teachers’ safety.
The federal government had, on Oct. 20, ordered the reopening of all schools following safety protocols in place. Most public universities could not resume due to the ASUU strike, which started in March and was eventually called off in Dec. 2020.
But by December, the world had entered the second wave of the pandemic and schools remained closed. The government then announced a second resumption date of Jan. 18.
Compliance With Guidelines
A cross-section of students who spoke with HumAngle said resumption was divided into two phases and others said their schools operated virtual classes.
A student representative at the Lagos State University (LASU), Ajayi-Obisesan Tofunmi, said the institution divided students’ resumption into two phases to reduce the crowd’s adherence to the COVID-19 safety protocols.
“LASU divided the resumption into two phases. The first phase of resumption was for students in their final year level to complete outstanding examinations. While other levels resumed after the completion of the examination,” she said.
Asked how the institution ensured strict compliance with the protocol, she said LASU divided all levels with high population, “sectioning their sitting arrangement and enforcing a ‘No Face Mask No Entry’ rule at the school gate.”
She also said the university constructed taps at the entrance for hand-washing and sanitising, and enforcement officers are known as marshals go-round for routine checks to ensure compliance.
Corroborating this, the school’s Public Relations Officer, Ademola Adekoya, said the management complied with all Lagos government and NCDC guidelines.
“When we were asked to open at first, recall that LASU was the only institution who requested approval from the state government and NUC to allow students back on campus. Resumption was done in batches to ensure students can not come in simultaneously for the same lectures,” he said.
“We have put up taps and washed hand basins at all classes and strategic areas in the institution. Seats are dedicated to observe physical distancing and the compulsory use of face masks on campus, classes and offices. That is why we have not recorded any cases since resumption.”
Meanwhile, Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU) students, Ago-Iwoye, told HumAngle that the institution was yet to commence physical classes.
The Student Union president, Awoyemi Michael, said: “We have decided to remain virtual till we are confident that the environment is safe for students to learn. We can not determine their compliance with the safety protocols since they are at homes. However, on the part of the institution, we are working to ensure the maintenance of a COVID free learning environment.”
Just like OOU, students of Obafemi Awolowo University also said they were yet to begin physical classes. A 500 level student, Olowolafe Oluwadunsin, said the institution still conducted all lectures virtually.
“Students have been instructed not to come into the campus. All materials and lectures are done online at all respective levels. From pictures that we see, the institution provided a washing hand basin in strategic areas and departments,” he said.
However, students at the University of Abuja fear that the COVID-19 would travel fast in the hostels due to the absence of social distancing among inhabitants and visitors.
“Almost everyone in my room has cold presently; we are protecting ourselves the way we can,” one of them revealed.
Speaking on resumption, they said it was delayed a bit. “While the first phase of resumption accommodated only the 100 and 400 level students, other students resumed a week after,” Oluwadunsin said.
She added that students had been asked to put on face masks and ensure social distancing in respective lecture halls.
The university spokesperson, Habib Yakoob, however, said guidelines were being adhered to.
“We have washing points, We don’t have squatters currently in the hostels, and we have people who are trained to ensure students, lecturers and visitors comply with the COVID-19 guidelines,” he said.
Speaking on compliance with COVID 19 guidelines in universities, a senior member of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Ben Ugheoke, said observing protocols rests on each university’s administration.
“I strongly feel compliance lies in the administration of each University. If we all understand how the virus is, we will all be a force to comply. COVID 19 is a serious matter,” he said.
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