The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) said varsities across the country are not ready for safe reopening.
Different chapters of the union in an interview with The PUNCH, said the directive of the National Universities Commission that varsities should resume on January 18, but must adhere to COVID-19 protocols in hostels and lecture halls is not feasible.
ASUU said although its members were ready to start work, government had not put measures in place for safe reopening of the schools.
ASUU’s concern came amidst the rising number of coronavirus cases in the country
The Chairman of the union at Obafemi Awolowo University, Osun State, Dr Adeola Egbedokun, in the interview said classroom and hostel situations in universities did not in any way conform with COVID-19 protocols.
Egbedokun further said no preparations had been made so far for the safe re-opening of the universities, urging parents to insist on safety before re-opening.
He said: “COVID-19 is very real and this second wave is as real as described. We cannot afford to toy with our health and the health of our dear students in the name of resumption, which is politically motivated.
“There are no preparations for safe re-opening of the universities and I think parents must insist on safe re-opening. The current classroom and hostel configurations in our universities do not in any way conform with the PTF (Presidential Task Force) on COVID-19 protocols. There is way universities can achieve that. I have said this elsewhere, that rather than for government to have addressed the obvious deficits in the public universities during the lockdown and strike, they were playing to the gallery.”
But the OAU spokesperson, Abiodun Olanrewaju, said the university management was ready for resumption and had put in place “a lot in relation to the COVID-19 protocols” in a bid to ensure safety.
The union’s chapter of Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, said the university was not ready to cope with COVID-19 challenges. The Chairman of FUNAAB ASUU, Dr Adebayo Oni, said: “The lectures halls are overcrowded. As of today, in my own campus, I have not seen any facility for hand washing, who is to provide sanitisers? Do you expect lecturers to provide sanitisers for themselves?
“Fumigation of the environment from time to time should be done, How do you cope with students surge and the challenge of power supply ?”
Oni said the union had observed that conducting physical lectures with students would be more disastrous.
“The fact is that under this circumstance and looking at the threat of the figure, going physical with students would be more disastrous. Conducting physical session, physical lectures with students would be more disastrous.
“The truth of the matter is that we now propose a mixed model of online teaching and probably some level of physical teachings.
“Even the online teaching also comes with its own facilities which are not readily available.
“We don’t want to be pessimistic to say that it is not going to be workable. However , it is going to be at the risk of our lives and the lives of our students if the required facilities are not provided by the government.
“The truth is that the facilities to cope with the pandemic are not available in our institutions. It appears the government is not ready and our institutions are not helpful,” Oni added
At the University of Port Harcourt, ASUU Chairman, Dr Austen Sado, said there would be a spike in coronavirus cases.
“We have not been invited to inspect any facility in order to determine its suitability. So, we will wait until we get clarification on the resumption, then we will know whether there are things to contend with,” Sado said.
Asked if he feared a spike ahead of the school resumption, he said he had seen some measures put in place by the university, but that the possibility of an increase in cases existed.
The university had directed students to resume on January 27, saying appropriate measures had been put in place to check the spread of COVID-19 in the classrooms and hostels.
The Public Relations Officer of the university, Sammy Kpenu, who disclosed, said one of such measures was the purchase of 400 thermometers to check temperatures.
But the Registrar of University of Lagos, Mr Oladejo Azeez, said the decision on resumption of academic activities would be taken by the school’s Senate on Wednesday.
Azeez said the Senate would meet virtually on Wednesday to discuss and decide on the modalities of students’ resumption and academic activities.
“Irrespective of what the Federal Government has said, the resumption of students or of academic activities is the prerogative of Senate. Senate of the university will decide and the meeting of the Senate is coming up on Wednesday; a virtual meeting. The law places this in the hands of the Senate and until Senate meets, there is no way anybody can say anything on resumption,” he added.
The management of the University of Ibadan said everything would be done to ensure that there was not spike in cases of COVID-19 among students and staff.
The Director of Public Communication of the university, Mr Olatunji Oladejo, said this in Ibadan.
“The Federal Government and university authorities must ensure that, there is no spike on our campuses. I have doubt, if our universities can meet up with the standard and best practices to check the pandemic,” he said