By Tahir Ibrahim Tahir Talban Bauchi
The Covid 19 also known as the Corona virus has taken away over 141,000 lives in the US, while a whopping 3.7 million cases have been recorded so far. Many experts are of the opinion that the lackadaisical attitude of the United States President, Mr. Donald Trump and his impudence towards the advices and measures prescribed by the White House Task Force on the corona virus pandemic, have carelessly led to these very high figures. Compared to other countries that took the appropriate measures on time, the US could have saved thousands of lives. President Trump started wearing facemasks in public only last week, which is a campaign that would have encouraged the Centre for Disease Control’s efforts in enforcing social distancing and wearing facemasks; among a host of measures that would have helped in curbing the spikes in the corona figures. Trump is not on speaking terms with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and a member of the White House Covid 19 Task Force. He is not even allowed to make any public briefings or statements on a field he is an expert on; an agency he has headed since 1984. These have not helped the Task Force in fighting the spread of the virus.
Nigeria has shared quite a bit of providence with its corona figures, recording just about 35,000 confirmed cases, with just about 800 deaths. The Covid 19 Task Force team has relaxed most of the lockdown measures that were put in place, including opening up inter-state travel and the resumption of domestic flights. And only that providence can keep our cases and deaths from spiking on a second wave as there appears to be quite some problems in keeping with measures and regulations that can keep the virus in check. VIPs have been reported to be flouting regulations on temperature scanning, use of hand sanitisers and facemasks in airports round the country. One Dapo Daniels tweeted that “if you were on a flight from Lagos to PortHarcourt, 7 am on the 13th of July, please self isolate or get tested immediately. If you were in business class, my boss came in yesterday and was complaining of fever and chest pain, we had a covid test done and he has the virus. … stay safe people.” These are the risks involved with the relaxation of the covid 19 measures and even adults cannot be trusted with simple precautions to be taken in stopping the spread of the corona pandemic, now that the World Health Organisation has certified that the virus can remain airborne for a couple of hours.
How do we expect to enforce social distancing, wearing of facemasks,and use of hand sanitisers in schools especially primary schools? If adults are behaving stubbornly, what more of kids? Most of the classes in our schools are overcrowded and poorly ventilated. Aren’t schools going to be fertile breeding grounds for the virus? Countries that have opened up schools like Israel, Indonesia, and South Korea have quickly discarded the idea and closed back up, because of the overwhelming spike it caused in the number of corona virus confirmed cases. When the Education Minister, Mallam Adamu Adamu announced that schools would not be re-opened as the general public was suggesting, many people were up in arms against that decision. His decision was in the interest of the poor kids that would not be able to look after themselves, left alone in schools to take up the responsibility of taking the precautions prescribed by the task force. He also went further to announce that WASSCE examinations would not be holding. Countries like Kenya have long cancelled the annual examinations due to the fears that the exams could cause spikes and a second wave of the pandemic in their country. Understandably, parents would care that their wards are returned to school amidst growing concerns that teen pregnancy is on the rise with the stay at home situation that the pandemic has caused — but they would care more about the rise in the cases and deaths that could affect there kids if schools were reopened. Public discourse over the matter has brought to the fore that those in favor of reopening of schools are proprietors and business partners of private schools that are recording losses of revenue from the closure of schools. Its a matter of business to them and hardly that of lives. Private school teachers are also missing out on their pay from their private owners, unlike their counterparts in government employment.
In view of the outcry from school owners, succor has come the way of this economic ripple effect of the pandemic in the form of financial support to Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME). “The 2.3trillion covid 19 economic stimulus package is providing a 200 billion fund as off-take scheme and a survival fund that includes a payroll support programme for qualifying businesses. The guaranteed off-take scheme seeks to provide support for MSMEs, manufacturing local products by guaranteeing purchase from them of qualifying products like facemasks, hand sanitisers, PPE equipment for medical workers etc. The survival fund will provide payroll support to MSMEs with a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 50 employees. The MSMEs that qualify for these will make available their payroll for verification by government. Companies that meet the requirements will then be eligible to have the salaries of their verified staff paid directly from the fund for a period of 3 months. The target of this scheme will include private schools, hotels, road transport workers, creative industries and others.” The Vice President relayed this via video conferencing during the 2020 edition of the MSMEs awards. He added that every person who has taken it upon themselves to start a business in Nigeria, no matter how small is a champion, and we as a government owe it to you to create an enabling environment for you to thrive.
Mallam Adamu has taken the tough decision to keep schools closed until such a time when the right measures can better be implemented by school authorities round the country; or better still, when a cure or vaccine is available. Those clamouring for the reopening of schools are not doing so for their care and concern for the kids, but for their own economic pluses. The education minister’s decision is for the protection of the lives of the pupils who would be left to wallow in the grip of the corona pandemic and government would be blamed for it all. Those writing WAEC exams won’t have 100 level classes and hostels to move into afterall as students in those classes and hostels have also been stagnated by the corona virus pandemic. So its a hurry to no destination eventually. For now, e-learning should take centre stage as it is the way to go in the 21st century. Leading schools worldwide in countries that have better medical capabilities than ours, have announced that their academic calendars would be completed via e-learning. With the MSMEs support funding, I believe we can tarry a bit with the whole school reopening clamor. It is not in our interest to go the Trump way at all.