#iPGN: Ebola Scare: Ebola and holiday extension; What parents, stakeholders say



LAST week, in a bid to control the spread of the deadly Ebola Viral Disease (EVD), the Federal Government announced the extension of the current holiday of private and public primary and secondary schools across the country till October 13. All summer classes were also suspended.

The Minister of Education, Mallam Shekarau Ibrahim, who briefed newsmen in Abuja after a consultative meeting with state commissioners of education, also threatened sanctions against any school that violates the order.

The development has, expectedly, generated different reactions from parents and education stakeholders. But the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) on Thursday, 28 August, 2014 commended the Federal Government for taking the step.

Tribune Education spoke with stakeholders both in the public and private schools on the development.

Mr Oyedishun Mohammed (parent): I believe it’s a good idea. It’s actually very easy for the disease to spread in schools, and I am happy the children are aware of the disease; you hear them joking about it when they play. We parents might spend more money to take care of the children during this break, but the money cannot be compared to the amount that will be spent to cure the virus if they contract it.

Mrs Olubukola Ogunyemi (school proprietress): This is a very good decision by the Federal Government because the disease is very contagious and once a child has it, other children will be vulnerable. Government should wait till it is contained before allowing children to come back to school. It’s better to secure the health of the children. The number of days spent at home is not as important as the health of the young children. It is very difficult to tell the difference between a child that has malaria and Ebola. The two have the same symptoms and caregivers, in a bid to treat the sick children, can also contract the virus. Of course, children play and interact in school. This would be an avenue to spread the virus. Obviously, the development would have a negative effect on private school owners because the parents might not pay school fees on time, thereby making it difficult to pay teachers’ salaries, but the health of the children and other citizens remains paramount.

Mrs Habibat Ishola (parent): I’m happy about the extension because it is for the common good of everyone. Even if the children go to other places to socialise, like the religious places, they might not contract the virus because they stay in these places for a very short period of time, compared to their schools where they spend a good part of the day. We have to be very prayerful. I believe the government knows why it took this step.

Mr Tunde Fatunbi (estate surveyor): Even if the resumption is postponed till next year, it does not mean Ebola would have been eradicated. I really do not think this is the remedy. The solution to this is educating people more on the Ebola virus and on the need for proper hygiene. Schools should be informed on the need for proper hygiene. I have been to some schools that are so dirty. In such schools, it would be very easy to spread the disease. Teachers should encourage the children to wash their hands and they too should imbibe this act. Most times, the school is the only place we can keep these children busy when we go to our various places of work; but now that the break has been extended, we will have to make adjustments in our schedules. Most of the school work would have been forgotten and even if you employ a private home tutor, what is the guarantee that he or she does not have Ebola?

Professor Olawale Moronkola (lecturer): There’s no need for it. Children meet in the church and mosque, and they board public vehicles; so, why the extension? All we need to do is put school health services in place, for the children to know the signs and symptoms. Let there be creation of awareness between teachers and students, know where students are coming from, monitor them and have referral services if there is any problem. Should we also close down churches, mosques, market or banks?

Mrs Dasola Opoola (school proprietress): The extension can only curb the spread of Ebola to an extent. The easiest place to spread any disease is through schools because it is very difficult to stop children from playing with one another. I believe if the government should educate children and teachers on how to prevent the spread of the disease, it would go a long way. I am satisfied with the postponement of the break, but I feel it is rather too long. It would affect a lot of things, especially we school owners. It is going to affect the school calendar between September and December, which is the first term. There are so many holidays already; and if we deduct the number of days from the two months we have left, we would have just about one and a half months. We can barely do anything within this time frame, and so the children would be rushed and it might affect them. To me, the break should have been for just two weeks; a period to educate the children, school owners and teachers. When there is relevant information, it would be easier to curb the virus. No break extension would do that. I do not see this as a very effective measure because it would disrupt a lot of things.

Mrs Dorcas Oladejo, parent: The postponement of the break is a very good idea. The extension period can be used to lecture teachers and children on safety measures needed to prevent the virus from spreading. Children are usually at more risk when it comes to the spread of all these diseases. They pick up so many things from school. I can recall when one of my children had conjunctivitis (Apollo), the entire family caught the eye infection. How much more this deadly Ebola Virus that can be easily contacted. Everything has its disadvantage, even this development but in this case, I can say the advantages are more.

Mrs O. Olanrewaju (teacher): The break is so unnecessary and it does not make any difference. To me, I don’t see how it would prevent Ebola from spreading. Some children have travelled all over the country and even outside the country for the holidays. The big question is: are they going to be (screened) when they come back to school? If not, then the aim of the break extension would have been forfeited. And the break is definitely going to affect the syllabus. The first term is usually packed with so many activities. Sometimes, three months is not even enough to complete the syllabus, let alone two months. The Christmas break might be shortened. Some schools do not pay salaries during the break, and it may be difficult for teachers to survive, but teachers in the government schools will be paid.

Pastor Ayobamiji Ogunbeku (school principal): Government has made the right decision, but it should have made the summer classes to continue so that the children would remain where they are. Now that the holiday has been extended, many children will have the opportunity to move back to their different locations, and so the extension is non-effective. The term has been shortened by a whole month, and this will definitely affect students. By next year, students will have to write their WASSCE, and I hope it will not affect the date. Things may not be so easy for private schools as they will need to pay their staff; but if the children do not go back to school, parents will definitely not pay. The government should have extended the break till the end of September, and not October 13.

Tomiwa Ojedele (pupil): I’m happy about the extension because it will give me the opportunity to read my books and watch television. However, I am really going to miss my friends and some teachers. We were not even allowed to complete our summer lessons and of course our school did not give a refund of the money paid. When we eventually resume from the break, the school syllabus will be rushed and this might affect us negatively in the examinations. Worst of all, our next holiday will be shortened and we will not have enough time to play.

Michael Ogunnaike (student): I’m happy about the break; it’s an opportunity to rest and read more school books. On the other hand, it might delay a few things; for example, WASSCE next year. I don’t think the decision made by the Federal Government will stop the Ebola virus from spreading, because we will go back to school someday. It’s just like postponing the evil days. It will not in any way curtail the virus. The spread might even continue after the break; will they keep extending because of that? I still appreciate the efforts of the Federal Government though.

Oluwatamilore Ojedele (student): This new development will create a lot of changes in the already planned school curriculum. We might not even have our usual December break. The break might also have negative effects on the students because any slight interference in the regular pattern of school could cause problems. It’s very easy for the virus to spread in school, especially among young children, who tend to play and sweat. Personally, I believe it would be wise to stay at home during a period like this.

Shalom Makinde (pupil): It’s good and bad at the same time. It is good in the sense that it protects the children from the harm of the disease and also reduces the rate at which the disease would spread; but it is a bad idea because some children do not read their books and so when the time comes for resumption after the long break, they would have forgotten everything they were taught. It will also shorten the Christmas break.

Posted From iProdigy Group Nigeria(Dabibi Ori-ibim’s Blog).

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