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Coronavirus: Low public perception, compliance hampering school reopening – NCDC

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on Thursday said poor public perception and compliance to health protocol on prevention of COVID-19 pandemic were major reasons why the Nigerian government has been reluctant to open schools.

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on Thursday said poor public perception and compliance to health protocol on prevention of COVID-19 pandemic were major reasons why the Nigerian government has been reluctant to open schools.

NCDC’s Head of the Risk Communication, Dr Yahya Disu, disclosed this while featuring on a webinar themed: “Rethinking Education- Perspective and Challenges of Remote and Alternative Learning in COVID-19 Pandemic,” which was hosted by Plan International Nigeria’s Country Director, Hussaini Abdu, with support from the European Union.

“The risk perception by the public is still very low and it’s because our population structure consists mostly of youths 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,” he told participants during the webinar.

As of June 24, Nigeria has more than 22,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases with deaths hitting over 500, according to data obtained from the NCDC.

Dr Disu 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 COVID-19 easily.

“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,” the medical doctor added.

Speaking on the use of alternative learning platforms for students, the panellists at the webinar (a group of eight experts), emphasized the need for government to invest in online and digital channels for learning to continue for the country’s teaming youth population.

Also commenting, 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.

“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,” Prof. Evwierhoma said.

In his submission, Dr Murtala Adogi Mohammed, however, 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, even as he lamented the exclusion of learners in remote communities.

Dr. Mohammed said: “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.

She added: “There are many unreached that we need to reach. Education cannot wait and we need to ensure that every child access education.”

Also speaking, ActionAid Nigeria’s head of Business Development, Mr. Andrew Mamedu, listed the cost implications of remote learning.

According to him, they include increased financial burden on the care-givers in providing electricity, phone or computers and data. He also raised concerns about rise in poverty among teachers who are adversely affected by the changing context.

“Private schools have stopped paying teachers; it increases poverty in the long run. Source 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 all-inclusive for the citizenry.

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