Ahead of the planned re-opening of schools, the University of Maiduguri, one of the foremost institutions in North-east Nigeria, is strategizing to temporarily segment classes to curb the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the safety of students and lecturers.
During an interview, Mohammed Dahiru Madawaki, a professor of Management Science and Chairman of the COVID-19 intervention committee explained to our correspondent that the temporary segmentation was necessary because the prevailing facilities are insufficient to enforce social distancing regulations requiring two metres.
He added that UNIMAID has produced facilities such as hand sanitizers, antiseptic soaps, face masks, hand washing buckets and distributed them to units within and outside the school; and is renovating some departments while similar activities are expected in other faculties depending on their needs for the resumption preparation.
Mixed Reactions From Lecturers
In relation to the safety of handling scripts, Dr Mohammed Bukar (a lecturer in the Geology Department) said that student assessment scripts are not 100% safe to mark because that is a conduit for the transmission of the coronavirus and in a class of 50 or 100 students, you cannot guarantee that the students will adhere to the safety measures. He explained that if an infected student touches his script or writes for 30 minutes-1 hour, that poses a risk to all the people who will handle that script after.
Dr Mohammed Bukar said that, for him, it is not easy to teach for an hour with a facemask on because sometimes he gets short of breath when he uses facemasks for a long time.
Dr Bukar added that a serious underlying health condition will stop him from attending classes in order not to spread diseases as he stated his frequent use of hand-sanitizer as one of his protective measures. He further noted that he cannot teach classes in segments without any incentive.
On the other hand, Dr Yusuf Audu from the Department of Veterinary Medicine said that if students abide by the preventive measures, student assessment scripts will be safe to handle.
He went on to say that he can lecture in segments for an hour or more using a mask with no problems, adding that there is need for a microphone in order to be audible in the enclosed classrooms.
Dr Audu further advised sick persons to tackle their health conditions, if any, before attending or participating in classes.
Similarly, Dr Amin Odera Igwegbe from the Food Science and Technology Department said that scripts are one of the materials that the virus can survive on and may not be safe to handle unless properly disinfected.
Dr Igwegbe relayed that nobody feels comfortable using masks unless a special mask with a ventilated facility is designed because nobody can close his/her nose and talk for even more than ten minutes in an enclosed environment without air conditioners or electricity to generate a fan.
Dr Igwegbe emphasized the abuse of face mask by some people, most especially when alone in a house or car, adding that it is unhealthy for both the lecturers and students.
Parents Express Optimism
Mrs Zainab Ali from the Animal Science Department opines that her child’s safety is based on her or the school’s safety precautions, which include frequent hand washing, the use of facemasks, hand gloves and maintaining social distancing.
Another parent who pleaded anonymity noted students have been following and reading the guidelines for protection from COVID-19, thereby, they can protect themselves.
He added that the fear of God and proper adherence should be instilled in them.
High Levels of Awareness Among Students
A student of the institution, Adamu Garba, said that COVID-19 is transmitted through contacts-gathering and the like, therefore, adhering to the safety measures will prevent you from the disease
Another student known as Maryam Abdullahi Jidayi perceived said that COVID-19 is a deadly disease, adding that she will continue adhering to the Nigeria Centre for disease control (NCDC) guidelines so long as the disease persists.
Most of the interviewee stressed on the need for funding in the institution as well as regular sensitization/enlightenment on COVID-19 safety measures.
Over the years, the University of Maiduguri has trained thousands of individuals working across different spheres in the country and abroad.
The institution is said to host one of the more accommodating campuses, admitting different students regardless of their cultural background, ethnicity, religion or geographical location once the candidate attains the institution’s requirement. Another aspect is the evident beauty of the institution. Contributing to this are the standard buildings, classrooms, laboratories, libraries, hostels, etc. used in training students.
However, a recent observation is that the classrooms are currently overcrowded. Lecturers strive to deliver their lectures by talking loudly so as to be audible, while the students struggle to comprehend.
One cogent aspect is the issue of respiration which probed an inquiry on the level of the school’s preparedness to reopen amid this pandemic with the relevant authorities, as well as students’ and parents’ perceptions and safety on COVID-19.
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