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COVID-19: Nigerian universities pledged to keep students safe. Have they?


Umah Muhammed
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Ten months after they were forced to go home in March 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic and a strike by their teachers, the close to two million students of Nigeria’s 170 universities started getting notices from the federal government to return to their campuses by January 18.

The immediate challenge, however, was whether the tertiary institutions had the capacity, in terms of personnel and facilities, to meet the COVID-19 prevention needs of the burgeoning population of students.

With case counts still at a little over 100,000 in the country then, notable among the sceptical voices was that of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which asked students to remain at home, because of what it claimed were inadequate facilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the universities.

But the management of many of the institutions responded with statements of assurances, promising the students and the public safety upon resumption. As it is evident in some pictures posted online shortly after resumption, some universities made modest moves towards COVID-19 prevention. How have they fared two months down the line?

DUBUWA visited some of these institutions to ascertain their level of compliance with COVID-19 preventive measures, such as regular hand washing, temperature checks, physical distancing, and the wearing of face masks as advised by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

Feeble adherence in North-Eastern universities
The main gate of ATBU Yelwa campus had no handwashing facilities, temperature checks, and hand sanitizers on February 20, 2021
The main gate of ATBU Yelwa campus had no handwashing facilities, temperature checks, and hand sanitizers on February 20, 2021
Although students were compelled by university security staff to wear facemasks at the entrance gate of the Yelwa Campus of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU), DUBAWA observed that most of them take off their masks as soon as they are within the campus. There were no temperature checks or hand washing facilities at the gate, hostels, or anywhere else on the campus. Furthermore, some classes visited were filled up with no adherence to the social distancing guidelines.

This is against the NCDC advice that schools should “ensure that a triage point is identified and well-marked at the entrance where everyone gaining access to the school is screened for high temperature, requested to wear masks and perform hand hygiene.”

A 100-level student who asked not to be named said it could be worse when new students resume. “I was in a class with over 2,000 students crammed up to the brink and I’m sure that’s not all of us because some new students from the 2020/21 session are yet to resume.”

“Please forget COVID-19 guidelines because nothing is fully adhered to here,” another student said.

Source: Premium times

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