COVID-19: ASUU Kicks Against Reopening Of Universities

Academic Staff Union of Universities in some institutions across the country on Sunday kicked against the resumption of academic activities over lack of measures put in place to guide against the spread of COVID-19.

ASUU in an interview with Punch reacted to the directive of the National Universities Commission that universities could resume on January 18, but must follow measures put in place against COVID-19.

The union stated that although its members are ready to be back in class, the government is yet to put measures in place for the safe reopening of the schools.

The Chairman of ASUU at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Osun State, Dr Adeola Egbedokun, in his reaction, noted that classroom and hostel situations in universities did not conform the COVID-19 measures.

Egbedokun further stated that no preparations have been put in place for the safe re-opening of the universities and urged 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 confirm with the PTF (Presidential Task Force) on COVID-19 protocols. There is no way universities can achieve that. I have said this elsewhere, that rather than for the government to have addressed the obvious deficits in the public universities during the lockdown and strike, they were playing to the gallery.”

The spokesperson of OAU, Abiodun Olanrewaju, said the university management was ready for the resumption and had put in place “a lot in relation to the COVID-19 protocols” in a bid to ensure safety.

The Federal University of Agriculture, ASUU chapter noted that the university is not ready to cope with COVID-19 challenges.

The Chairman of ASUU-FUNAAB, Dr Adebayo Oni, on Sunday, 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 the power supply?”

Oni said the union had observed that conducting physical lectures with students would be more disastrous.

He described as alarming, the figure of COVID-19. He said, “It is definitely a threat to the resumption of academic activities.”

“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 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.”

The Chairman of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University branch of ASUU, Dr Musa Babayo, in a text message forwarded to Punch, said that the government and institutions did not show any sign of seriousness in handling COVID-19 issues when the union was on strike.

He said that ASUU in the ATBU had yet to see any tangible improvement in students’ hostel accommodation, classrooms and other things needed for COVID-19 protocols.

Babayo who said that if the Federal Government had released funds to universities, proper arrangements for the protocols would have been made by the institutions.

He said, “The coast is now very clear since has ASUU suspended its strike and it has gone further to show how government and institutions are not serious in the handling universities, particularly the issues of COVID-19.”

“When you talk about ATBU and resumption whether ASUU is satisfied, I can tell you that we have yet to see any tangible improvement, whether in hostel accommodation, classrooms and other things needed for COVID-19 protocols.”

The spokesperson of the institution, Abdulkadir Shehu, disclosed that the resumption of students of the institution had yet to be announced.

He said, “Yesterday (Saturday) fumigation of the school at both the Yelwa and Gubu campuses commenced and it will soon be concluded.”

ASUU Chairman at the University of Jos, Dr Lazarus Maigoro, while speaking ahead of resumption noted that the association is concerned about the second wave of COVID-19.

He, therefore, urged the management of the university to ensure compliance with COVID-19 protocols on resumption.

Maigoro who expressed concern over the second wave of COVID-19 said his members expected the university authority to comply with the COVID-19 protocols to contain the spread of the disease in the institution

The Senate of UNIJOS will on Monday (today) hold a meeting to decide whether the institution will reopen for academic activities on January 18, 2021.

The institution’s Deputy Registrar, Information and Publications, Abdullahi Abdullahi, revealed this on Sunday.

Abdullahi said, “We don’t know yet when UNIJOS will resume. The Senate will be meeting tomorrow (Monday) and that is where they will decide when the institution will reopen.”

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The Chairman of ASUU at the University of Calabar, Dr John Edor, stated that the association would not allow its members to be exposed to health hazards.

Edor stated, “As a union, we are not too quick to talk. We are not too fast to become meddlesome. They have said schools are permitted to resume on the 18th of January, 2021. If by then we see that the necessary things are not put in place for the resumption, the union will come up with a position because we are not ready to expose our members to health hazards.”

“That was why we went on strike, asking for the revitalisation of public universities. Revitalisation simply means conducive theatres, conducive hostels, offices, laboratories and libraries.”

“That is why we are saying let us wait till 18th of January and see how prepared Nigerian public universities are in the face of the second wave of COVID-19 which has come up with a more ferocious variant.”

At the University of Port Harcourt, ASUU Chairman, Dr Austen Sado, said there would be a spike in coronavirus cases.

He stated, “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.”

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.

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