Ben Ayade’s failed gamble
It was good that reason prevailed in Cross River State last week when the state government shelved its plan for experimental reopening of schools amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Cross River is yet to formally record a case of the pandemic, but its status is highly controversial as stakeholders like doctors have argued that the zero disease burden owes to few tests conducted.
The Governor Ben Ayade administration had penciled three public schools to reopen on 16th June in each of the state’s three senatorial districts. To that end, it committed to making protective gears including face shields and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) overalls available in schools gratis to students as they resume. Reports however said only a few students of some affected schools got the items while others made do with personal improvisations like handkerchiefs for facemasks. In some schools, nothing allegedly was provided. Besides, many of the schools scheduled for reopening were not fumigated.
According to reports, many pupils of the designated schools showed up for resumption but were turned back by principals who pointed out that only SS1 to SS3 students were expected.
The inadequacy of protective gears is being addressed though by the state government, which is said to have engaged Indians for massive production and distribution of the equipment to schools for free. A senior government official was quoted saying: “The facemasks and shields will be distributed in phases and there is need to fumigate the schools before they resume. We are doing it in phases and we have asked students to go back home until they hear from us.”
Before that rethink, the state’s chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) had urged that the proposed experimental reopening of schools be put on hold. In a statement by Dr. Agam Ayuk and Dr. Ezoke Epoke, chairman and secretary respectively, the association raised the alarm about “flu-like symptoms, respiratory disorders and loss of smell and taste in various hospitals,” saying this could indicate “potential community transmission of an undetected disease in the mode of Covid-19.” The doctors added that hasty reopening of schools despite genuine reasons for caution could trigger disease outbreak among students.
So, it was triumph of reason that the Ayade administration pulled the breaks on its plans; it is expected it would return to the drawing board for a more realistic appraisal of the risk factors. But it isn’t the Cross River government alone that need do this, so does the administration of Governor Seyi Makinde in Oyo State.
The Oyo government has scheduled resumption of classes for Primary Six, JSS3 and SS3 students for Monday, 29th June, at a time the state’s case count for Covid-19 is hugging 900. And it hasn’t even made the kind of commitment Cross River made for reopening its schools. How rash!