As Nigeria gradually eases out after prolonged lockdown to contain the devastating impact of COVID-19 a call has been made for a classification of teachers as “essential workers” to enable the country guarantee continuous educational service delivery during the pandemic.
The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 in its guidelines sanctioned by the security agencies classifies essential workers as medical personnel, diligent journalists, courageous fire service personnel, telecommunications workers.
CASE FOR TEACHERS
A labour leader and member of National Institute Kuru Jos Comrade Issa Aremu made a case for teachers as essential services in his remark at the Virtual 4th Edition of Kwara State chapter of National Union of Journalists (NUJ) Annual Ramadan Lecture in honour of his late wife, Hadjia Hamdalat Aremu on Thursday anchored in Ilorin.
The Special Adviser to Kwara State Governor on Health, Professor Wale Suleiman was the key speaker at the Virtual 2-hour interactive session under the theme “COVID-19: Gains in Pain- Kwara Experience”.
The former Governorship Labour Party (LP) candidate in Kwara State observed that it was time the Federal government focused on the all sectors impact of Coronavirus pandemic which had claimed 200 lives and ruined many livelihoods. He called for an “immediate impact assessment” of the lock down on education. According to him before the pandemic, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) indicated that the population of out of school children in Nigeria has risen from 10.5 million to 13.2 million, the highest in the world. He observed that not less than 120,000,000 children and students are currently out of school in West Africa, mostly from Nigeria adding that if measures are not in place urgently, there might be renewed worsening mass illiteracy in Nigeria and Africa. “One of the eased lockdown measures as directed by the Federal government should be on the education sector”. He said while the official focus had been on impact on businesses, employment and incomes with series of bail outs, it’s time to critically assess the impact on education. Comrade Aremu advised that the government make the period of lock down to “reinvent the public schools in terms of provision of water, sanitary personal protective materials for students and above all space for physical distanced interactions in the condition of pandemic”. He said COVID-19 had “once again exposed the underdevelopment of educational infrastructure and the inherent inequalities between the education of the children of well having parents and mass of children in abandoned public schools.” He called for bail outs for public education through public and private partnership as envisaged by UN Sustainable Development Goals.
ADOPT OPON IMO/ TABLET OF KNOWLEDGE
He also suggested that all states governments should adopt the award-winning “Opon Imo” Tablet of Knowledge launched in 2013 under the leadership of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola in a Osun state. He stated that the new Normal calls for technology innovation in education sectors. “Opon Imo” Tablet of Knowledge, is an innovation which arms every pupil with all the books in every subject needed by the students in the conditions of COVID-19. “Continuous Education of students is critical to minimize the pains and maximize the gains of COVID-19.” He suggested unconditional cash transfers to all students by both the Federal and states governments, adding that “Teachers should be declared frontline workers with better incentives, remuneration and above all comprehensive health insurance to ensure educational service delivery”.
Earlier, the Special Adviser on Health Matters to Governor Abdulrasaq Abdulrahman, Professor Wale Suleiman in his presentation of management of the pandemic in the state attributed the low infection and fatality rate in Kwara State to what he called the team-manship and hardwork” of the frontline members of the state COVID-19 committee. He observed that the pandemic which had claimed more deaths globally than the two Iraq-Gulf wars posed fresh challenges for health sectors world wide. He said the pandemic brought to the fore decades of deficiencies in funding, medical supply chains, corruption and manpower capacity building in Kwara state adding that Governor Abdulrahman had turned the health sector around in a record time through improved funding and involvement of medical staff as critical Stakeholders in health service delivery. He disclosed that Kwara State had built capacity for provision of oxygen for active coronavirus patients adding that more than ever before there was the need for an imperative of comprehensive health insurance in the country.
Aremu observed that notwithstanding the novel nature of the Virus and limited resources, the Federal Government through the Presidential Task Force (PTF) and the states governments had faired better in managing the pandemic. He however called for “a consolidation” of responses .
HAILS THISDAY PUBLISHER
The labour leader singled out the Publisher, ThisDay Newspaper, Chief Nduka Obaigbena, who donated ThisDay Dome Abuja to Federal Ministry of Health as an Isolation/Treatment centre for COVID-19 case management adding that it was a “timely exceptional corporate social responsibility.” The Vice President of IndustriALL Global Union urged that the same energy and cooperation between all tiers of government and private sector be deployed to eradicate malaria which he said still kills annually as many as 100,000 people (more than COVID-19 has killed in entire Africa) despite having a cure”. He said the pains of COVID-19 lies in the sudden loss of loved ones supported the call for collective responsibility.
VICTIMS, NOT STATISTICS
“Victims are not statistics but loved ones, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers and even comrades”. Comrade Aremu said that the disease which had claimed the life of the former Chief of Staff, to President Muhamadu Buhari, Mallam Abba Kyari and affected three governors also claimed the life of Comrade Alhaji Nosiru Lawal, the 4th two term President of National Union of Textile and Garment Workers between 1996 and 2004. He reportedly died of the disease on Tuesday April 21, 2020. “Part of me went with Comrade Lawal. Of all the Presidents I served with, Nosiru Lawal was the closest. He was also my contemporary in the union I joined in 1989, the time he was emerging as a shop floor activist. He was among the few politically conscious unionists. He was my Hadji mate in 2003. He facilitated my turbaning as the Waziri of Oriwu Central Mosque of Ikorodu town where he hailed from. He was full of life at the official opening of the mosque 28th December 2019”.
While praying for the repose of the victims of the pandemic, Aremu overemphasized that COVID-19 is real as repeated by President Muhammad Buhari. “As the country gradually risks easing of the lock down, Nigerians must ensure social distancing, personal and industrial/workplaces hygiene, put on the face masks, follow instructions from public health authorities in public media not fake media. Above all we should offer solidarity and guidance to victims towards quick recovery and avoid stigmatization.
MUSLIMS SHOULD HEED GOVERNMENT AND SULTAN DIRECTIVE AT SALLAH
Meanwhile as Sunday has been declared Eid-el-Fitr, Comrade in Aremu in similar vein, called on all Muslim compatriots to heed the directive of Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, on Eid-el-Fitr and adhere to the federal government’s protocols on social distancing, wearing masks and handwashing in order to stay safe.
UNITY OF PURPOSE
“COVID-19 is an opportunistic Virus. If we operate separately, it is bent on killing us all. As at this morning, as many as 5 million people have been infected worldwide, with 328000 deaths. This is a human virus that requires human solidarity. We must unite in love and solidarity to turn the PAINS OF THE DISEASE into COLLECTIVE GAINS.
NEED FOR SANCTIONS AND DISCIPLINE
He however demanded for prompt sanctions for noncompliance with public protocols and rewards compliance. He commended Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq who promptly directed the sack of a government driver who reportedly unilaterally attended to an unkempt person who was evacuated with a COVID-19 ambulance in Ilorin.
HAILS FAYEMI FOR REWARDING COMPLIANCE
Conversely the labour leader hailed Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi who appointed a father, Mr Adeoye who took personal responsibility in rejecting his son for sneaking into Ekiti state from Lagos state, as a COVID-19 Response Ambassador in Ekiti. The former road safety officer, rejected his son due to the fear that Lagos remains the epicentre of Coronavirus in the Country, and did not want to take chances by allowing his son into his house, who according to him, might have been infected.