The rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has further emphasised the need for strict adherence to safety protocols, yet compliance to the prevention measures has continued to wane across the country. ALFRED OLUFEMI< visits Lagos schools to monitor the level of compliance as they resume after the holidays and find out that many schools are struggling to adhere to prevention protocols.
When some SS1 students at Agidingbi Grammar school, Ikeja, got the instruction to submit their notes for assessment on Wednesday morning, the classroom became rowdy as many jostled their way to the collector assigned by the teacher.
Even though the school principal was just a few metres away, none of the students cared about complying with the necessary COVID-19 preventive measures.
“We must submit before the deadline. Failure to do so may attract punishment,” one of the students told our correspondent after she had submitted hers.
Schools nationwide resumed on Monday after a holiday was declared mid-December to observe the Christmas and New Year festivities.
The federal had repeatedly warned schools not to slack in complying with safety measures, particularly with the detection of the first Omicron variant in December.
The World Health Organisation had also warned against taking the strain lightly, noting that the Omicron variant is evading some immune responses.
“There is now consistent evidence that Omicron is spreading significantly faster than the Delta variant,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“And it is more likely people vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 could be infected or re-infected,” Tedros added.
Also, the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, had on December 21 announced that Nigeria is now in a fourth COVID-19 wave, calling for stricter compliance to safety protocols.
The director added that as of December 19, 2021, a total of 223,887 cases were recorded across all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, amounting to a 500% spike in the infection rate.
As of the time of filing this report, 249,154 cases have been recorded across the country, with Lagos state, the epicentre of the virus, leading with 97,157 cases.
Use of face masks, social distancing violated in public schools<
According to the NCDC, some of the COVID-19 preventive measures include the regular use of face masks or shields, regular washing of hands or use of alcohol-based sanitisers and staying at least one metre apart in public places.
But while some schools in Lagos ensured that water is provided for washing, not so much is done to enforce the use of face masks and adherence to social distancing, PUNCH Healthwise observed.
Less than ten metres away from the gate at Agidingbi Grammar school, a ceramic sink is dedicated for hand-washing but temperature checks are not mandated.
Our correspondent was only instructed to fill the visitor’s book before he was directed to the classroom area.
Also, the majority of the students and teachers were seen without a face mask or shield while the few that wore theirs positioned the masks below the chin. This negates the WHO guideline that recommended that it should always cover the mouth and nose.
In classrooms, social distancing was not prioritised as the students maintained a sitting arrangement of four students on a bench.
“Let’s say you come around 7:00 am you would have seen our teachers use the thermometer. You know you cannot keep it outside,” a vice-principal at the secondary school told PUNCH Healthwise.
“We are trying our best as far as prevention is concerned. No student has tested positive for the virus,” she further remarked.
The same was also the case at Babs Fafunwa Millennium Junior Grammar School along Isheri Road in the Ojodu area of the state, where most of the classes visited were filled to the brim.
However, provision was made for washing of hands outside every classroom and a temperature check was conducted on students and visitors.
One of the teachers who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she wasn’t authorised to grant interviews, said social distancing in public schools may not be achieved for the population.
“Some classes have up to a hundred students in class. It is not possible to maintain three metres. Except the wants to build more classes,” she said.
The Principal of the middle school, Mrs. Ayodele Bimpe, however, told PUNCH Healthwise that the school is trying its best.
“We are obeying every rule. It’s about (provision of) water, washing the hands of the students and all. We have a borehole that has a separate generator. We are trying our best.”
Adhering to prevention protocols difficult in private schools<
Some of the private schools visited denied our correspondent entry to the class areas.
At Dorinda, a private school situated at Akinsanya Street in Kosofe, the school’s administrator showed our correspondent the classes from her computer screen connected to the CCTV camera.
” We don’t allow people in, that’s a COVID-19 protocol,” she said, adding that most of their pupils are aged 4 to 5.
At the school’s gate, there’s provision for sanitisers for visitors and a thermometer is positioned at the entrance for temperature checks.
Unlike the case in Dorinda, Living Word Academy in Ojodu did not provide for a thermometer at the entrance or soap for washing of hands or sanitiser.
But the headteacher, who identified herself as simply Mrs. Benedict, defended the decision not to grant our correspondent entry into the school, saying; “This is for security purposes. You should have informed us earlier. We are being very careful at this period.”
Responsibility on the teachers — Expert<
Dr. Oyiguh Simeon, a medical doctor at Kogi State Specialist Hospital, has said that enforcing the safety measures is the responsibility of the teachers.
“The National Centre for Disease Control, on behalf of the federal of Nigeria, has reeled out these things to protect ourselves and to protect our nation and so it is in our best interest for us to follow these protocols,” Simeon told PUNCH Healthwise.
He also stated that no part of Nigeria is supposed to be exempted from complying.
Speaking further, the medical expert said physical distancing can be achieved if the teachers are cooperative.
“The students can actually be ordered in a way that such physical distancing can be workable. So, we will encourage that as much as possible the proper thing is done because whether we like it or not, COVID-19 is very real and it is not a respecter (sic) of students or teachers or anybody. And it does not announce itself to you.”
Simeon noted that the fact that children are exempted from COVID-19 vaccine administration makes it important that the safety protocols are duly followed.
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