Tuesday, 9 September 2014

NMA rejects September 22 date for resumption of schools

The Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, yesterday faulted the Federal Government’s directive to schools to resume on September 22 as against October 12, arguing that schools should not be reopened until all those under surveillance for the Ebola Virus Disease in the country are certified free.

Speaking through its National Secretary-General, Dr. Olawunmi Alayaki, the association said, “we are not happy with this decision on the resumption of schools. Schools should be shut
till the last suspected case or patient is certified free of the virus.”

According to the NMA, the resumption of schools could be shifted till December or early part of next year because if Ebola should spread to any school, it would “assume another dimension.”

While urging parents not to be in a hurry to have their children back to school since children cannot survive isolation like adults, the association noted that, “we can shift the resumption date till next year or in the next three months if that is the time it will take. Government should have enough time to follow the standard procedure for containing the virus.

“Nigeria is peculiar because of her large population and we should be pragmatic and proactive. It will not augur well for the country if we have another outbreak due to carelessness.”

Speaking in the same vein, the Lagos State chapter of the NMA said that the Federal Government should have postponed the resumption date till the completion of surveillance and monitoring of contacts in the affected states.

Chairman of the Lagos state chapter of the association, Dr. Tope Ojo, who observed that many of the public and private schools in the country lacked basic hygiene and sanitary facilities that could help prevent the spread of the EVD by pupils, said: “It would not have cost the Federal Government anything to have waited till those under surveillance have completed the 21 days in all the states where they are being monitored.

“The government knows that it takes a longer time for children to get used to the idea of hygiene and sanitation. They are even more vulnerable because they would play with each other whether they are sick or not.

“How many children know that they should use hand sanitizers or avoid contact with anybody that has fever?

“Waiting till October when at least the situations in Rivers and Lagos states would have been conclusively managed is another safety measure the government should have taken. These kids are not studying to get a degree, so we are sure it would not have affected schools’ curricula,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, while speaking with PUNCH in Lagos, said there was nothing to fear over the federal government’s directive to schools to resume on September 22, noting that, “We have contained the situation. Ebola is no longer in the streets anywhere in Nigeria.

“We are working with the Federal Ministry of Education and we made it clear that in institutions having students returning from outside Nigeria, they should let us know.

“We will work with them and we have questionnaires which we are already using on airlines and ships coming into Nigeria as well as other means of transport. They will fill questionnaires. We will ask questions and conduct tests to see that they don’t have fever,” he said.

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