A rare glimpse into WhatsApp messages of frantic parents.
A frantic conversations between parents ensued as they piled over each other to express concerns about the planned reopening of schools in Lagos.
“Why are they so in a hurry to open schools without considering the concern of parents?”
“Have they fumigated the schools and sanitized all public areas?”
“Why can’t they use mock exams as a substitute for JSS examinations?”
“JSS is not even an important examination and surely not worth risking our children to write…”
“Why do we have to conduct Covid-19 test for our children when we are not even sure that teachers and school administrators have been tested?”
“If any child test positive, what happens to them? Will they still sit for the exams?”
“Children are not psychologically ready to be away from home let alone write any exams.”
“Public school children, how will they fare with just 2 weeks tutoring?”
“The tests are very expensive, not everyone can afford it.”
“The psychologically effect of this whole process on children is taking its toll.”
These are excerpts of some WhatsApp group chats seen by Nairametrics. Parents are worried sick about the planned reopening of schools by the Lagos State Government, especially considering the fact that Covid-19 numbers are still in the hundreds despite a significant drop in recent weeks.
The reopening of schools is part of a wider plan by the government to ease the lockdown and gradually reopen the economy. Worship centers have also been given the green light to reopen, while economic activities are fully returning in many parts of the country. The government, though previously nervous about the spread of the virus, is now more worried about the spread of poverty caused by job losses and lack of income to the informal sector. Half of Nigeria’s GDP comes from the informal sector.
For Lagos State, schools are an important part of the equation. Teachers in public schools have been at home for months doing very little, as most of them cannot use 21st century technology. And even if they could, schools cannot afford to pay.
Students are even worse off. Lack of education for months could jeopardize years of work towards improving literacy levels at poor and impoverished locations in the state. If left unchecked, it could become a breeding ground for recruitment of area boys.
There is also a financial ring to it. And as some will allude, it is the driving force of the Lagos State Government’s decision to open schools. Most of the private schools in Lagos are owned by a wealthy few, some of whom are connected to powerful politicians. They are also alleged to be piling pressure on the government to reopen schools.
If students continue to stay at home, the school owners’ revenues could run out by the end of the year. After all, they have expenses to pay for. Maintenance cost, teachers and admin salaries rank high on the list. Perhaps the most significant are interest rates obligations to banks. Most of the private schools are funded in part by bank loans and these interest will have to be paid.
Despite these cogent reasons, parents have every reason to be super worried. Recent reports from the United States show a spike in Covid-19 cases among children as new strains of the virus emerge. However, mortality rates of the virus for children are still very low, even as most of them are asymptomatic.
Yet, children could easily contract the virus, show little to no symptoms, and then pass to their parents or elderly ones at home. There is still no cure for the virus. Despite progress made with vaccines, no one expect mainstream supply before the first quarter of 2021. The risks are dire.
So what should parents do? Despite their concerns, some parents have also proffered solutions to the debacle. They believe schools reopening for exams need to force kids away from their homes and into boarding school. Exam centers can be located in strategic areas in the city with funding provided by the government. “After all, they did not provide bailouts,” one parent quipped.
For students currently not writing exams, parents have proposed that a reopening date in late September can be considered. However, students should be given an option to school from home using online learning tools. Teachers with the help of their schools can start now to train themselves. Surely, Covid-19 has shown us e-learning is the way to go.
Mandatory Covid-19 test should be conducted by schools on their teachers and administrators as it is the case in other countries where schools have reopened. They also suggest that hand sanitizers, constant running water, soaps, and other disinfectants must be provided in all schools’ public areas.
While these are all great initiatives, it remains to be seen if teachers will implement. One parent who prefers to remain anonymous revealed that the recent parents teachers association meeting of her child’s school was feisty. School administrators and parents disagreed on most of the issues above and without the leadership of the state government, unpleasant things could unravel when school reopen.
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If there is one thing we have learned about Covid-19, it is that we haven’t learned enough about the virus. As schools reopen we will understand how prepared schools are to avoiding any outbreak. All it needs for the government to shutdown is if an outbreak occurs in any school. It could mean we are all back to square one.